Matt Garza had the shortest outing of his career and his ugliest as a Cub on Thursday night. For some reason he could not get an out in the third inning to save his life. The trouble started with a lead off single by pitcher Livan Hernandez. The next seven Nationals proceeded to reach base, including one thanks to an error.
Six runs later, Garza hit the shower early and in total seven runs were scored off of him as Jeff Samardzija allowed an inherited runner to score in the frame. The former wide receiver was able to keep the home team off of the scoreboard other than an unearned run in the fourth, and teamed with lefties James Russell and John Grabow through the sixth inning.
With each loss the Cubs have been collecting over the last several weeks, it seemed the team had reached rock bottom each time. But with this latest big deficit, it was looking like Cubs morale could fall even lower, as if trying to prove that it was possible. The phrase “Cubbie occurrence” is one that Lou Piniella coined during his time here. The term had been used with a negative connotation by the former Cubs manager when unexplainable bad breaks would go the Cubs way.
Last night the term could have been used in a positive manner to try to explain the unexplainable. In the top of the sixth, this same group of Cubs that has struggled to the tune of being almost 20 games under .500 found away to mount a six run rally, after suffering tough to swallow one run losses all series long. To take the degree of difficulty one step further, all the runs were driven in after there were already two outs in the inning. The big hits were a two run scoring double by Darwin Barney and a three run homer off the bat of Blake DeWitt, his second of the season. And just like that, the Cubs were suddenly back in a ballgame that could have more than easily been left for dead.
Carlos Pena has seemingly been hitting home runs every other game, and he came through in the top of the seventh with Aramis Ramirez along for the ride to tie the game at eight. The homer was his nineteenth of the season. Ramirez snuck a single through the right side of the infield to drive in the go ahead run in the eighth as he and Pena continue to try to out do each other in the RBI department.
Even with Sean Marshall blowing the lead in the bottom of the eighth, Barney came up with another RBI double to put the Cubs back up for good. Carlos Marmol almost gave the game back to the Nationals, but found a way to escape the ninth with the tying and game winning runners on third and second base respectively for his eighteenth save of the season.