Cubs

Bullpen Blows Lead Again, Cubs Fall To Nats 7-4

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Chicago Cubs catcher Geovany Soto talks with pitcher Carlos Marmol after Marmol blew a 4-3 lead against the Washington Nationals in the 8th inning at Wrigley Field on April 7, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Chicago Cubs catcher Geovany Soto talks with pitcher Carlos Marmol after Marmol blew a 4-3 lead against the Washington Nationals in the 8th inning at Wrigley Field on April 7, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (AP) – Carlos Marmol insists it’s too soon for him to be frustrated. Cubs fans sure are, though.

Adam LaRoche homered and matched a career-high with four hits, and the Washington Nationals again rallied late against Kerry Wood and Marmol, scoring five runs in the eighth to beat the Chicago Cubs 7-4 on Saturday.

“It’s been two games,” Marmol said. “You can’t be frustrated.”

Tell that to the crowd, though. They weren’t holding back after Wood and then Marmol gave one away again.

The Cubs wasted a strong start by Matt Garza after Ryan Dempster shut down Washington in the opener, and in both losses, Wood and Marmol were miserable.

This time, Chicago answered LaRoche’s two-run homer in the fourth by scoring three in the bottom half to take a 4-2 lead while knocking out Gio Gonzalez, but the bullpen again gave it away.

Washington sent up 11 batters in the eighth and hammered Wood (0-1) and Marmol again after they faltered in a 2-1 loss on Thursday.

Danny Espinosa started the winning rally with a two-out solo homer to left in the eighth on the 10th pitch he saw from Wood, who walked three straight to force in the tying run in the opener.

Marmol came on after back-to-back singles by Ryan Zimmerman and LaRoche but fared no better after taking the loss on Thursday. He immediately walked Jayson Werth to load the bases before giving up a two-run single to Chad Tracy, putting Washington up 5-4. Roger Bernardina then doubled in Werth, and Marmol left to loud boos after Wilson Ramos walked.

Shawn Camp then gave up an RBI infield single to Steve Lombardozzi, who led off the inning with a ground out, before retiring Ian Desmond on a fly to right to end the inning.

“I think we can take away from it that we’ve played well,” the Cubs’ Darwin Barney said. “We’ve done the little things right, put ourselves in position to win ballgames. It’s early. There’s no panic.”

Ryan Mattheus (1-0) got the win. Henry Rodriguez struck out three in the ninth, and four relievers combined to shut out the Cubs over the final 5 1-3 innings after Gonzalez struggled.

An All-Star and 16-game winner last season, he gave up four runs, seven hits and three walks in 3 2-3 innings.

“I was in the strike zone,” Gonzalez said. “I was making these guys swing the bat. If I could go back, I wouldn’t change a thing I did today.”

Garza pitched five-hit ball over six innings and was quick to defend his relievers.

“Those two guys have done it before, and they know tomorrow’s another day,” Garza said.

One thing that did bother him was LaRoche’s homer halfway up the right-field foul pole to give the Nationals a 2-1 lead, and Garza vented in the dugout between innings. He was angry at himself for missing his spot with that pitch.

LaRoche’s performance certainly was a good sign for the Nationals, considering he hit just .172 with three homers in 43 games last year before undergoing season-ending surgery on his left shoulder after signing with Washington.

“One of those days where a lot of things went right for us,” LaRoche said. “We fought hard and there was never a point in the game where we thought we were thinking `we have to do it right now.’ We were relaxed and knew we would get it going eventually.”

NOTES: 1B Bryan LaHair, who pinch hit for Garza, was out of the lineup for the second straight game because of a minor back issue. He is expected to start on Sunday. Jeff Baker got the nod at first again in his place. … The Cubs selected veteran right-hander Rodrigo Lopez’s contract from Triple-A Iowa and outrighted infielder Luis Valbuena to the minor league club. … Nationals 1B-OF Michael Morse traveled to New York on Saturday for back treatment and is expected to return to Double-A Harrisburg to finish his rehab. Morse is eligible to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on April 10 while the Nationals are visiting the New York Mets. … Jordan Zimmermann starts Sunday for Washington, with Jeff Samardzija pitching for the Cubs. Zimmermann was 8-11 with a 3.18 ERA in 26 starts in his first year back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow before getting shut down. This will be the sixth career start for Samardzija after spending four seasons in the bullpen.

(© 2012 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.)

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