NO S-A-M-A-R-D-Z-I-J-A [DING!] Top 5:
5. Quick Recap: Ryan Zimmerman was first-pitch swinging in his first at bat of the game this afternoon, and the Washington Nationals' third baseman singled to left off Chicago Cubs' starter Carlos Villanueva to lead off the second. Bryce Harper angered Nats fans on Twitter with a sac bunt that moved Zimmerman up a base, but Ian Desmond's line drive to left in the next at bat brought Zimmerman around for a 1-0 lead in the second game of three for the Cubs in D.C.
Nationals' leadoff man Denard Span singled to start the third. Anthony Rendon waited through eight pitches and five pickoff attempts at first before he doubled to left on the ninth pitch of his at bat against Villanueva, bringing Span around from first for a 2-0 lead. Jayson Werth worked the count full and doubled to right-center, bouncing one off the GEICO sign to bring Rendon around. 3-0. Adam LaRoche reached on a fielder's choice on a swinging bunt when Welington Castillo threw late to third trying to cut Werth down, and Werth scored on an RBI double to right by Ryan Zimmerman. 4-0. A wild pitch to Bryce Harper brought LaRoche in from third, 5-0, then 6-0 when Ian Desmond drove Zimmerman in, 7-0 when Wilson Ramos drove Desmond in and... that was it actually.
The Nationals added to their lead in the sixth with Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth hitting back-to-back doubles to left field. Rendon scored on Werth's and Werth scored on an RBI single to right by Adam LaRoche, 9-0 Nationals.
Wilson Ramos doubled and took third on a Gio Gonzalez single in the home-half of the seventh, and Anthony Rendon's third double of the game brought Ramos in for a 10-0 Nats' lead. Kevin Frandsen's RBI single to right scored Gonzalez and the Nationals took an 11-0 lead. Ryan Zimmerman drove Frandsen and Rendon in with a double to the right-center gap. 13-0.
4. GI-14.O: With seven scoreless innings last time out against the Cubs in Chicago's 100-year-old home, Wrigley Field, Washington Nationals' lefty Gio Gonzalez extended his scoreless innings streak to 14 straight going back to his final frame of work against the Houston Astros in his first start upon returning from the first DL stint of his major league career. Gonzalez talked after that outing about how important it was to him that he was sent back out after he'd given up three hits, a walk and four runs in the inning before his streak started.
"I credit our pitching coach Steve McCatty and Matt Williams for letting me go out there and build my confidence back up there and letting me go out there and pitch," Gonzalez said.
"That fifth inning made me feel confident again. Gave me that boost of confidence that I needed."
Gonzalez followed that outing up with six scoreless against the Milwaukee Brewers on the road in Miller Park.
In three outings upon coming back after resting to let inflammation in his left shoulder subside, Gonzalez was (2-0) before today, with a 2.00 ERA, 2.77 FIP, nine walks (4.50 BB/9) and 18 Ks (9.00 K/9) in 18 IP over which he's held opposing hitters to a .172/.290/.224 line.
His last start against the Cubs was the fifth against Chicago in Gonzalez's seven-year major league career.
The win left the left-hander (2-1) against the Cubbies, with a 3.03 ERA, nine walks (2.73 BB/9) and 31 Ks (9.40 K/9) in 29 ⅔ IP in which Cubs' hitters have put up a combined .206/.265/.280 line.
1st: Cubs' center fielder Junior Lake K'd on a check swing strike three on a 1-2 bender. Nats' third baseman Ryan Zimmerman backhanded a grounder to short off Justin Ruggiano's bat and bounced a throw to first that Adam LaRoche handled for out no.2. Anthony Rizzo stepped in with two down and took a 1-2 fastball for a called strike three. 13-pitch frame. 2 Ks.
2nd: Starlin Castro lined a 2-2 two-seamer to right for a leadoff single. With Cubs' catcher Welington Castillo up, however, Castro was caught stealing, thrown out by two steps by Nats' catcher Wilson Ramos. Castillo ripped a line drive by a diving Ryan Zimmerman at first. Mike Olt started down 0-2, but got to 2-2 before he K'd swinging at a diving changeup. Chris Coghlan worked the count full in his two-out at bat and sent a low liner to left for a single. Darwin Barney took a 1-0 fastball for a ride, but it died a step onto the track where Bryce Harper caught out no.3 of a 26-pitch second. 39 total after two.
3rd: Carlos Villanueva K'd looking at a 1-2 curve. Junior Lake bunted back to the mound. Justin Ruggiano battled for nine pitches and flew out to left. 14-pitch third, 53 total after three.
4th: Given a 7-0 lead to work with, Gio Gonzalez popped Anthony Rizzo up to short to start the fourth. Starlin Castro walked with one down, but Welington Castillo flew to right field for out no.2. and Mike Olt rolled a weak grounder right in front of home that Wilson Ramos handled. 15-pitch 4th, 68 total for Gonzalez.
5th: Chris Coghlan sent a one-hop grounder to second that Anthony Rendon handled. Darwin Barney K'd swinging over a diving 0-2 changeup. Chris Rusin popped to foul territory off third, ending a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 5th that left Gonzalez at 77 total after five scoreless.
6th: Ryan Zimmerman did his thing, charging a weak roller toward third off Junior Lake's bat and sidearming an accurate throw to first. Justin Ruggiano dumped a one-out single into short-center. Anthony Rizzo stepped in with a runner on and flailed weakly at a 1-2 bender for a swinging strike three and out no.2. Starlin Castro grounded to short in the next at bat, Ian Desmond fielded it and bounced a throw to first, but Adam LaRoche scooped it up. 11-pitch frame, 88 pitches overall for Gonzalez after six scoreless.
7th: Welington Castillo sent a broken-bat groundout third, where new third baseman Kevin Frandsen made the play. Mike Olt went down swinging at a 1-2 changeup. Chris Coghlan was first-pitch swinging and flew out to center to end an eight-pitch inning by Gio Gonzalez, who was up to 96 pitches overall and 21-straight scoreless innings.
8th: Darwin Barney grounded out to short to start the eighth. Luis Valbuena did the same. Junior Lake grounded back to a leaping Gio Gonzalez on the mound. Eight scoreless. 13-pitch frame, 109 overall after eight.
• Gio Gonzalez's Line: 8.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 109 P, 76 S, 10/4 GO/FO.
3. Big Deal: The Nationals were set to face right-hander Jeff Samardzija for the second time in a week this afternoon after beating the right-hander in Wrigley Field in the second game of the day/night doubleheader last weekend in Chicago.
Last night, however the 29-year-old starter was dealt to the Oakland A's along with right-hander Jason Hammel, who shut the Nats down during the series in the Cubs' and the current series opener in D.C. on Friday afternoon.
The Cubs received a package in return that includes the top two names on Baseball America's latest list of the Athletics' top prospects, 20-year-old, 2012 1st Round pick Addison Russell (no.1), 19-year-old 2013 1st Round pick Billy McKinney (no.2), plus 25-year-old right-hander Dan Straily and a player to be named later.
With Samardzija headed to Oakland, Chicago called upon right-hander Carlos Villanueva to make today's start in the nation's capital.
Villanueva, 30, started in four of his 22 appearances for the Cubs this season, putting up a 9.68 ERA, a 3.62 FIP and a .385/.409/.551 line against in 17 ⅔ IP as a starter and a 5.91 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 12 walks (2.36 BB/9) and 37 Ks (7.29 K/9) in 45 ⅔ IP overall on the year.
Over the course of his nine-year MLB career, Villanueva faced the Nationals 13 times before today, making just one start, however, and putting up a 2.30 ERA with three walks (0.99 BB/9) and 24 Ks (7.90 K/9) in 27 ⅓ IP over which Nats' hitters put up a combined .190/.221/.280 line against him.
Denard Span was robbed of a hit by a diving Chris Coghlan in left, but Anthony Rendon took a four-pitch walk from the Cubs' reliever-turned-starter in the second at bat of the Nats' first. One out later, Rendon stole his 8th base of the year, and took third on a wild pitch, before he was stranded there at the end of a 22-pitch frame by Villanueva.
Ryan Zimmerman singled to start the second, took second on a sac bunt by Bryce Harper and scored on an RBI line drive to left by Ian Desmond that got the Nationals on the board, 1-0. 15-pitch frame for Villanueva, 37 total after two.
Denard Span lined to left to start the third with the Nats' second straight leadoff hit. Anthony Rendon battled for nine pitches, and waited out five pick attempts on Span before doubling to left field to drive the Nats' leadoff man in from first for a 2-0 lead. Jayson Werth worked the count full too and doubled to right-center, off the GEICO wall on a bounce to bring Rendon in, 3-0 Nationals.
That was it for Villanueva...
• Carlos Villanueva's Line: 2.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 Ks, 1 WP, 58 P, 35 S, 2/1 GO/FO.
2. Anecdote: No real point to this one, just a good quote from Nats' skipper Matt Williams, who talked about working through slumps in today's pregame meeting:
Matt Williams: "Bobby Bonds told me once, 'Matt don't worry when you're in a slump. Because you know you're going to come out of it..."— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) July 5, 2014
Matt Williams (cont): "The time to worry is when you're hot, because you know eventually it's going the other way." #Nats— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) July 5, 2014
1. The Wrap-Up: Cubs' left-hander Chris Rusin took over for Carlos Villanueva with a runner on second and no one out in the third with Chicago trailing 3-0. Adam LaRoche hit a swinging bunt a few feet in front of home in the first at bat against the Cubs' reliever, and catcher Welington Castillo made an ill-advised attempt to cut down the lead runner, but his throw way late, leaving runners on first and third with no outs. Ryan Zimmerman took a 2-1 fastball outside to right for an RBI double that brought Werth in, 4-0. A wild pitch to Bryce Harper brought LaRoche in from third and moved Zimmerman up, 5-0. One out later, Ian Desmond drove Zimmerman in with a line drive to left and Wilson Ramos singled to right-center and off the out-of-town scoreboard to bring Desmond around from first. 7-0 Nationals.
Chris Rusin came back out for the fourth and gave up a one-out single by Jayson Werth, but Adam LaRoche grounded into an inning-ending 6-3 DP. Rusin issued a two-out walk to Ian Desmond in the fifth, but completed another scoreless inning of work.
The Nationals got to the Cubs' lefty in the sixth, however, with Anthony Rendon (20) and Jayson Werth (19) hitting back-to-back doubles, each of them to left, and both with two down. Rendon scored on Werth's, 8-0 and Werth scored on an RBI single to right by Adam LaRoche, 9-0.
Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper followed with singled to load the bases with two down. Ian Desmond faced a new pitcher, Justin Grimm, and K'd looking at a questionably high heater.
Wilson Ramos doubled to right-center and Gio Gonzalez singled to left in the first two at bats of the Nats' seventh against Grimm. One out later, Anthony Rendon doubled to right to drive Ramos in and make it 10-0 Nationals. Rendon's third double of the game and his 21st this season. Kevin Frandsen brought Gonzalez in from third with a line drive to right. 11-0. Make that 13-0 after an RBI line drive to right-center by Ryan Zimmerman.
Craig Stammen came on to end it with scoreless eighth.
13-0 Nationals. 22-straight scoreless innings pitched by Gio Gonzalez.
Nationals now 47-39