After 7.2 quality innings from starter Ryan Dempster, the Chicago Cubs gave up a run in the eighth and ninth innings to the Washington Nationals, dropping their season-opener 2-1.
Cubs closer Carlos Marmol (0-1) took the loss as Nationals’ pitcher Tyler Clippard (1-0) got the win and Brad Lidge (1) had the save.
Dempster allowed only one earned run on two hits, walked three, and struck out 10 Nats in his first start of the year. After allowing a leadoff hit to Ian Desmond in the first, Dempster did not allow another base knock until the eight when Desmond singled once more.
The Cubs’ scored in the fourth inning off of a Marlon Byrd single that brought home Ian Stewart who was making his first start in a Chicago uniform. The Cubs finished the game with six hits.
After taking the mound for Dempster in the top of the eighth, set-up man Kerry Wood walked three consecutive Washington batters. A free-pass to Jayson Werth tied the game at 1-1.
Marmol was called on to close in the ninth where he served up a double to pinch-hitter Chad Tracy off the right field wall. Tracy was lifted for pinch-runner Brett Carroll and Carroll scored off a single from Desmond to etching the game-winning run.
With one out in the Cubs half of the ninth, Stewart seemed to tie up the ballgame with a hit that was destined to end up in the right field bleachers, but unfavorable winds kept the ball in play and Stewart tripled.
Pinch-runner Joe Mather was thrown out trying to score the tying run on a grounder from Jeff Baker to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and the Cubs could not push a run across in the bottom of the ninth.
Cubs’ shortstop Starlin Castro extended his hit streak to 11 games in the first on a pop-up single when Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg allowed the ball to drop on the pitcher’s mound.
Game two of the series takes place Saturday with a 12:05 pm CT start as Cubs’ pitcher Matt Garza takes the hill.