Cubs Lose Third Straight Game By One Run, 5-4 To Nationals

Happy times, before the loss: Carlos Pena of the Chicago Cubs celebrates in the dugout after hitting a two run home run against the Washington Nationals during the second inning at Nationals Park on July 6, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

When the Cubs gave up runs in the first inning again Wednesday night -- for the third straight game to the Nationals -- that got me thinking: how many times had they done that this year and what was their record in such games?

So I looked it up, both what the team record is when allowing and scoring runs in the first inning in 2011. In some games they did both, so these numbers can include games on both lists.

Cubs when allowing a first-inning run or runs in 2011: 5-26

This isn't really surprising. When you go behind in a game early, you're much more likely to lose. What's more shocking is this:

Cubs when scoring a first-inning run or runs in 2011: 9-15

This team can't stand prosperity, either. It doesn't seem to matter to them whether they go behind or ahead early. Further, tonight was their fourth straight loss that was by one run, going back to Saturday's loss to the White Sox. That makes the team record in one-run games 10-17, which is approaching the awfulness they had last year at 15-30 in mid-August before recovering to win seven of their last nine one-run games last year.

The Cubs lost 5-4 to the Nationals Wednesday night, and it was on a totally unsurprising play. Catcher Wilson Ramos had swung and missed on an attempted suicide squeeze; Michael Morse, the baserunner, slammed on the brakes so he didn't get hit in the head by the bat.

Why weren't the Cubs ready for the squeeze again on ensuing pitches when it seemed really clear how much Davey Johnson and the Nats wanted to do it? On the next pitch, Ramos laid down a perfect bunt and Morse scored.

This after a pair of two-run homers, by Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez (the third time both had homered in a game this year), had erased the Cubs' first-inning deficit and brought the game into the seventh inning in a 4-4 tie. Really, Kerry Wood should have known better on the squeeze, maybe throwing a pitch low and outside or high to see if the Cubs could catch the Nats in the suicide again -- even a pitchout on an 0-1 pitch.

Randy Wells wasn't very good today either; he threw 92 pitches to get 12 outs, giving up ten hits and a matching pair of two-run homers to Nats Danny Espinosa and Ryan Zimmerman. Wells looks nothing like the guy who finished sixth in Rookie of the Year voting less than two years ago; I can't figure out what's wrong with him, but his ERA sits at a season-high 6.80 after this miserable outing and he's really had only one decent start (out of eight) since he came back. Could he still be hurt?

So the Cubs have to win Thursday to avoid a four-game sweep. The Nats actually look like a good up-and-coming young team and the Cubs have to go play another one, the Pirates, after this. This road trip is not looking good, not at all.

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