For the third straight time in the series, the Cubs suffered a loss by one run. Unfortunately almost does not count for anything in the win column. The Cubs battled back from being two runs down twice in the game, but the Nationals responded with a squeeze play in the seventh inning to sneak past the visiting team again.
Randy Wells was knocked out of the fifth inning without recording an out, the big blow being the second two run homer he had given up in the game. Considering he had given up 10 hits in just four innings of work, it is actually a surprise that the home team did not score a couple more runs.
Rookie Chris Carpenter, who quickly found himself back in the Majors thanks to the injury to Marcos Mateo, tried to get the Cubs back on track with two scoreless innings of work that included three strikeouts. Unfortunately Kerry Wood gave up a lead off double in the seventh inning and that runner eventually came in to score on the squeeze play. Carpenter’s ERA now stands at 3.12 and it will be fun to see him continue to develop as he gets more Major League innings under his belt.
The Cubs offense had their share of hits despite being out hit by the Nationals thirteen to eight. Reed Johnson found himself starting in the lead off spot and went 2 for 4. The firework highlights came off the bats of Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena. The left handed hitting first baseman got his off lefty starter Tom Gorzelanny to tie the game at two, and Ramirez matched Pena’s effort with a two run homer off his former Cubs and Pirates teammate in the sixth inning.
The 2011 season has been hard to swallow for Cubs fans, and we have not even hit the All Star break yet. However it has been fun seeing Ramirez and Pena try to out do each other in the power and RBI departments after both got off to cold starts in April. While the blame for recent failed seasons is fairly being focused on Jim Hendry by Cubs fans, two other important decisions are beginning to make themselves tough to sort out. The play of Ramirez and Pena in recent weeks puts both of them in reasonable consideration to be brought back for 2012 and even 2013. If the Ricketts family plans to contend in 2012, with or without Hendry, it is hard to see the Cubs doing so without Ramirez and Pena with no in house options readily available.
The Cubs 2011 season may be over, but the positioning and planning for 2012 roster moves has just begun. Stay tuned.