WASHINGTON – There would be more problems to come for the Cubs and starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija – more extra-base hits, more runs – and yet manager Dale Sveum chose to focus on what transpired in the second inning.
The Cubs already led by a run Friday night, thanks in part to new leadoff hitter Starlin Castro.
In the second, though, one Washington Nationals batter reached on an infield single. The next got aboard when Samardzija failed in two attempts to start a double play by fielding the ball with his pitching hand. He was charged with an error, then wound up giving up a two-run double to No. 8 hitter Danny Espinosa in what would become the Cubs’ 7-3 loss to Washington.
“That was kind of the big mess,” Sveum said. “We’ve got to field a ground ball back to us. We seem to make a mistake, and we can’t make a pitch after that.”
That’s sort of symbolic of how things are going this season for Samardzija (1-5), who lost his fifth decision in a row. He allowed seven runs – five earned – and eight hits while throwing 73 pitches in his five innings, matching his shortest outing of the season.
On the error, he explained: “Once I kicked it the first time, it just turned into one of those (where you) keep reaching for it and trying to hurry, and you’ve got to come down and barehand it and throw it to first. That was my bad.”
Samardzija said he was not bothered by a cut on his right index finger from a start April 24.
“Felt good. Felt about as best as I could all year,” the right-hander said. “That’s the frustrating part of it, when you’ve got your pitches and you feel good and you get that outcome.”
He hasn’t won since beating Pittsburgh on opening day. On Friday, Samardzija didn’t even need to worry about pitching to two of Washington’s best hitters, Bryce Harper (ingrown toenail) and Jayson Werth (right hamstring injury).
But the Nationals extended their season-high winning streak to five games thanks in part to Ian Desmond’s three hits, including a two-run homer and an RBI double. Two other hitters lower in the order, Danny Espinosa and Kurt Suzuki, each drove in a pair of runs with a double.
“When your 3-hole hitter’s out of there,” Washington manager Davey Johnson said, referring to Harper, “and you score a bunch of runs, that’s big.”
Desmond was reminded of the manner in which the Nationals compiled a majors-best 98 wins in 2012 despite a series of injuries to everyday players.
“Last year, we were missing guys throughout the whole season, pretty much,” said Desmond, who singled and scored in the second, homered in the fourth and doubled in the fifth. “We just found a way.”
Ross Detwiler (2-3) gave up two runs in 6 2-3 innings, and Craig Stammen got the last seven outs.
“He wasn’t real happy when I hooked him,” Johnson said about Detwiler. “That’s good. I like that.”
Castro delivered doubles in each of his first two at-bats for Chicago, including to begin the game. He made it 1-0 in the first on Anthony Rizzo’s groundout.
But Suzuki’s two-run double off the wall in right-center put Washington ahead 2-1 in the second.
Chicago tied it in the third when Samardzija and Castro hit consecutive doubles. Castro later was thrown out at home when trying to score on Rizzo’s single. Right fielder Roger Bernadina, starting because Harper and Werth were out, got his second assist of the season with his throw, and Suzuki dived to tag Castro.
Desmond put Washington back out front with his fifth homer, driving an 0-1 pitch barely over the wall in left to make it 4-2. Soon as the bat made contact with the ball, Samardzija spun around and yelled.
NOTES: The Cubs activated RHP Kyuji Fujikawa from the DL and optioned RHP Rafael Dolis to Triple-A Iowa. Fujikawa, out since April 13 with a straight right forearm, pitched a scoreless seventh inning Friday. “For the first time out, it looked like he had life on the fastball,” Sveum said. “The breaking ball looked not real sharp. It’s not really his pitch. He didn’t throw many splits at all, but I liked the life on the fastball and the location.” ... On Saturday, Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg (1-4, 3.45 ERA) will face Cubs RHP Edwin Jackson (0-5, 6.39). Jackson was with Washington last season, then signed a $52 million, four-year deal with the Cubs as a free agent. “Been a slow start to say the least. Not exactly how I had it envisioned,” Jackson said.
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