Jul 4, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Tanner Roark (57) looks on as Chicago Cubs left fielder Justin Ruggiano (20) rounds the bases after hitting a solo homer during the third inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Cubs Light Up Roark, Nationals on Fourth of July

The Nationals took the field bright and early on Independence Day, opening up a three game series with the Cubs at Nationals Park and hoping to give the fans some daytime fireworks. The Nats came in fresh off a sweep of the Rockies and riding a season-best five game win streak.

Tanner Roark and Jason Hammel took the mound in a rematch of last Friday’s game in Chicago. Roark hoped to avenge his loss, while the Nationals wanted to finally get past Hammel, who came in 7-0 against the Nats. Instead, what they got was a repeat of one week ago.

Chicago wasted no time in going to work. The first two batters singled in the top of the first, and Chris Coghlan scored when Anthony Rizzo grounded into a double play. Jayson Werth made sure the lead didn’t last long by crushing a ball into the left field seats in the bottom of the inning. It was Werth’s 8th home run of the season, and his second in as many games.

Unfortunately, the Cubs continued to pound Roark and managed a run in both the second and the third. First, Jason Hammel helped his own cause and knocked in Nate Schierholtz on a single that ricocheted off of Roark into left field; then Justin Ruggiano homered to right to stretch the lead to 3-1. Chicago added another run in the fifth with Coghlan scoring on a groundout by Rizzo.

Hammel was pulled early in the bottom of the seventh after giving up a leadoff double to Anthony Rendon, who would come around to score on a single by Wilson Ramos and trim the lead to two. After that, though, the Cubs bullpen managed to shut the Nationals down. Neil Ramirez, Pedro Strop, and Brian Schlitter combined to close out the last three innings without giving up another run.

Tanner Roark (7-6) struggled to find command the entire day, and the Cubs made solid contact throughout the game. The Nationals’ starter came out after seven innings, having surrendered four earned runs on nine hits with five strikeouts and one walk. Ross Detwiler labored through an inning and a third before Aaron Barrett came in, hoping to get the final two outs in the ninth but failing miserably. Barrett did not retire a single hitter and allowed the Cubs to add another insurance run. Jerry Blevins stepped in and surrendered two more before finally shutting down the Cubs.

It’s disappointing to see the Nats drop a game, especially after the offense looked as if it was finally showing signs of life. The bullpen put up an uncharacteristically poor performance as well, allowing the Cubs to put the game out of reach in the late innings. If there’s a silver lining to this game, though, it’s Jayson Werth, who went 2-for-3 with a home run, a double, and a walk. It’s nice to see him start to get some power back in his bat. The Nationals will need it moving forward.

Tomorrow afternoon, the Nats will hope to get back on track against the Cubs as Gio Gonzalez (5-4) faces off against Jeff Samardzija (2-7).

Tags: Washington Nationals

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