By Sam Zuba-

(CBS) This could have been a pretty special start to the season for Ryan Dempster.

The veteran right-hander took the mound on Opening Day for the Cubs for the second-straight year, hoping to erase the memories of last year’s performance where he gave up six runs in 6 2/3 innings.

And Dempster did just that — he was solid, tossing 7 2/3 innings of two-hit, one-run ball. The first hit came on his first pitch of the day, the second, a slow-rolling ground ball with one out in the seventh inning that fell just out of the reach of first baseman Jeff Baker.

After Dempster gave up his second hit of the game, he struck out Danny Espinosa before Kerry Wood came on to preserve the 1-0 lead.

Wood proceeded to walk three straight batters, walking in the tying run, and taking the win from Dempster.

“It was just one of those days,” Wood said after the game. “Ryan pitched great. He deserved a win. We deserved a win. I don’t think I had a three-ball count all spring and then I walk three guys in a row.”

Wood’s blunder only tied the game, though. The Nationals took the lead in the ninth inning when Chad Tracy doubled to right off Carlos Marmol and Ian Desmond followed with a two-out single to put the ‘Nats up, 2-1.

As usual, Dempster took the loss with grace.

“I feel for Woody in that situation and I feel for Carlos,” said Dempster, who walked three and fanned 10. “I’ve been in both those seats before. It’s not a fun feeling.”

Stellar Starting Pitching

After the 2-1 loss to Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals, Cubs manager Dale Sveum wasn’t surprised by the performance dished out by the 23-year-old right-hander.

Strasburg tied a career high with seven innings of work, allowing one run on five hits.

“When you have pitchers like that at the end of the season, they have 2.5 ERAs — there’s a reason for that,” Sveum said. “You don’t score more than 2.5 runs every nine innings. When (pitchers) don’t walk guys and they have that kind of stuff, you try to be as aggressive as you can. If you want to keep taking pitches, you’re going to get into two-strike counts. They ain’t gonna walk you anyways. They have great command of their breaking balls.”

Strasburg wasn’t the only pitcher throwing heat, as Cubs starter Ryan Dempster stepped up to throw 7 2/3 innings, giving up one run on two hits.

“He was incredible,” Sveum said. “He got out of a couple of early jams. After that, he was pretty much as good as you can get. The command of his fastball was (great,) his cutter, his slider everything was tremendous. It was really, really nice to see. He came out and did a great job. I know he was ready to prove everybody wrong about last year.”

Sam Zuba

Sam is the Sports Content Producer for Before earning a degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, he spent two summers covering the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago Cubs for Follow him on Twitter @SamZuba and read more of his columns here.