The Cubs Sunday game against the Nationals was on the verge of ending in heartbreaking fashion.
Holding a 4-1 lead with two outs in the ninth, making his first start as a part of the new-look rotation, Jeff Samarzija educed a slow roller from Ryan Zimmerman that trickled to short. The charging Starlin Castro airmailed his throw extending the inning and causing a cascade of sighs and, ‘here we go agains’ to fester in the sold out Wrigley blechers.
Restlessness furthered when Adam LaRoche pelted a two-run homer that brought the Nationals within one of the Cubs. The homerun was enough for first year manager Dale Sveum, who fought off an onslaught of boos as he approached the mound summoning closer Carlos Marmol.
Earning the team’s Thursday loss and adding to Saturday’s, Marmol came in and notched the save, giving Dale Sveum and Theo Epstein their first win with the Cubs.
In his first start as the No. 3 man, Samardzija put relief on the teams struggling bullpen striking out a career-best eight and holding the Nationals to four hits over 8 2/3 innings. Etching the third consecutive strong performance by a Cubs starter, the ex-Notre Dame football star retired 15 straight batters after Ian Desmond led off the game with a double.
After Washington tied the game on a Danny Espinosa sac-fly, the Cubs answered in the sixth. Alfonso Soriano fronted the response with a two-out, run scoring single that gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead once more.
The Cubs added a pair to their lead in the eighth by means of a Castro RBI double. The base knock extended Castro’s hit streak, which dates back to last season, to 14 games. The Nationals opted to Sean Burnett in relief who gave up Ian Stewart’s game surviving, run-scoring single.
Samardzija continued to impress following an impressive spring, however, the right-hander got some help along the way.
Defense backed the win when Soriano tracked down a LaRoche fly ball in left center, leaving his feet to record the highlight reel out.
Bryan LaHair made his first start of the season in the win and, like his teammates, showed impatients at the plate. LaHair swung at the first pitch in each of his first three at-bats of the season. The youngster made dividends by working the count to full in his last at-bat of the afternoon, blasting his second double of the game.
The Cubs will look to right-hander Chris Volstad to continue the rotations success on Monday to open a four-game series against Milwaukee which starts at 6:05 pm from Wrigley.