First Star: Livan Hernandez (.324 WPA)
Second Star: Tyler Clippard (.170 WPA)
Third Star: Tom Gorezelanny (.159 WPA)

Tonight the pesky Nats stopped the Cubs’ winning streak with a masterful pitching performance by Cubs nemesis Livan Hernandez.  It seems the older this guy gets, the slower he pitches and the more difficult he becomes for Cubs hitters.  And he’s also having a lot of success against teams other than the Cubbies – he came into tonight’s game sporting a 0.75 ERA and left with minimal damage to that mark, having only given up 1 earned run in 8 innings.  Since I rarely take the opportunity to watch the Nats, I can safely say that this team is showing lots of improvement – Nyjer Morgan is a first-rate center fielder and he and new shortstop Ian Desmond put together enough firepower and raw speed to take a 2-0 first inning lead against Cubs’ starter Tom Gorzelanny.  Gorzellany exited after yet another quality start – he didn’t have his best stuff but he gave up just two earned runs in seven innings pitched.

Then our stubborn and unyielding manager brought in his ace (John Grabow) to face the Nats in the 8th – Grabow responded by nearly throwing the ball over Derrek Lee’s head and Morgan reached on the throwing error.  He then stole a base and scored when Desmond rapped another  hit to the outfield.  Ironically Grabow’s ERA went down because the run was unearned; this one of the quirks in baseball scoring that hopefully will one day be addressed.  If a runner reaches on an error by the pitcher, why should that run be unearned?  I’m still dismayed by Piniella’s insistence on throwing Grabow to the wolves in key situations; it’s no different to me than when I saw Dusty do the same sort of thing with LaTroy Hawkins.  Hopefully our new owners are watching these games – Piniella’s management is not sufficient to merit an in-season firing but I think it’s time to let Lou retire with dignity after this season ends.

I haven’t been commenting much this season after games so I’d like to take this opportunity to say how thankful I am about the early season performances of Byrd, Fontenot, Soto, Soriano, Theriot and Fukudome.  We’ve been winning ballgames recently and these guys have absolutely been crucial to that success.  I’d also like to recognize how well our starters have pitched – barring a terrible Opening Day our front five have really done a great job.  Tomorrow the Cubs have a 1:20 start so let’s get this series back on track.  In other related news Nats prospect Stephen Strasburg threw 5 no hit innings for AA Harrisburg.

This perspective came from guest author, Chet:

There is nothing quite like watching a baseball game in 38 degree weather on a rooftop in Wrigleyville during the month of April. Night games are usually the toughest to manage as the temperature drops to ridiculous levels as the sun fades. It also doesn’t help when the home team provides little to no excitement. How does one run sound on seven scattered hits sound? Yes, the Cubs managed to end their four game win streak and they did it in unimpressive fashion by plating one run. Basically all the Nationals had to do was breathe in order to win this game. Add to this a nice pitching performance by the Livan (Livan Hernandez is 3-1 with a 0.87 ERA and is hinting at shades of his younger years) and you have a disaster.

Going into this evening Tom Gorzelanny had a 2.40 ERA over three games. At first glance you would think his season is off to a great start….not so fast. His current record is 0-2, yah zero wins and two losses! You may be asking how a guy flaunts a nice ERA and still hasn’t managed to scratch out a win. The answer is easy, the offense goes to sleep when he pitches. Hibernation would be a better word… the tune of one run over 3 starts. One run of support in 3 games is an atrocity and Tom has every right to wonder what he has done to deserve this. Not since Milton Bradley has a guy faced such……wow, sorry….not sure what I was thinking….moving along.

With the team on a 4 game win streak and coming off an extra innings win the previous night, Tom Gorzelanny had every reason to feel good about sealing up his first win of the season. The Cubs stood at .500 going into the evening and were chomping at the bit to get above and beyond. However, when the wind blows in out of the north it is equivalent to kryptonite with this team. Take away the long ball and you have an offense that is slower then erosion. They were able to give Tom one more run tonight to double his support total over 4 games. Meanwhile, Gorzelanny gave up two quick runs in the first but stymied the Nationals for the next 6 innings. Yet, another stellar performance from a guy at the back of the rotation. When the eighth inning rolled around John Grabow gave up his token run making a two run deficit look like a mountain. By the way, Grabow is slowly becoming that guy out of the pen. I get the same gut wrenching feeling I used to get when Alfonseca, LaTroy Hawkins, or Felix Heredia took the bump…..eight runs was never enough for these guys….ever!

As the final three outs flashed by and my finger tips started to numb I silently welcomed myself back to another year of Cubdom. A lack of clutch hitting or the inability to manufacture runs seems to be a broken record as of late and until this team can find a way to right the ship there will be a lot of cold and slow nights on the north side.

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