Many of us remember Livan Hernandez shutting down the Cubs in game three of the 2007 Division Series when he was with the Diamondbacks.
That's the way he looked last night; the Cubs had a few chances to score, but not many, and Matt Capps, the "reliever who got away", showed Cubs fans why the Nationals were eager to sign him to close. Capps posted his major league leading ninth save as the Nationals beat the Cubs 3-1. So, this is another of those "give some credit to the other guy" games -- Hernandez has had an up and down career, but is off to a great start in 2010, posting an 0.87 ERA in four starts and shutting down a couple of pretty good offenses (Rockies and Brewers). And credit, too, to the Nats defense -- both Ian Desmond and Josh Willingham made outstanding plays in the field to help cut down Cubs rallies.
Tom Gorzelanny threw seven shutout innings, allowing only two hits and a pair of walks. Before you tell me I'm wrong -- yes, Gorz did do that; the problem was, the seven shutout innings came after he allowed the first three batters of the game to get hits, two of them triples, leading to two runs before he got anyone out. Turned out that would be all the runs the Nats needed. After those three batters, though, Gorzelanny basically shut Washington down for the rest of the game and gave his team a chance to get back in it. It was the Cubs' 15th quality start in 21 games; the team ERA of 3.62 now ranks sixth in the National League.
The Cubs, however, are second in the NL with a large (for this early in the season) total of 12 unearned runs allowed. They added to that total last night when John Grabow's throwing error led to the Nats' third and final run. Would the Cubs have played any differently, or would they have had a better shot at tying the game, if they had gone into the last of the 8th down only one run instead of two? We'll never know, but they did have Ryan Theriot in scoring position with only one out in the bottom of the 8th.
It was colder last night than the night before, a listed 43 degrees at game time, with the flags on the scoreboard still standing out straight enough so that you could read all the team names clearly; the wind did knock down a couple more fly balls that would have been home runs on other days. It was hard to tell exactly how many people were in the ballpark. The tickets-sold figure was 37,440; a little after game time it appeared to be maybe 20,000 in the house. That number increased to perhaps 25,000 as seats filled in, but by the middle innings it began to empty out as people left the cold. By the time Tyler Colvin pinch-hit for Justin Berg representing the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, there couldn't have been more than about 5,000 remaining.
Give Colvin some credit, too, though he struck out to end the game; he made Capps work by fouling off three straight pitches after running the count to 2-2.
Since there's a day game today, I'll end this recap here; the Cubs can still win the series this afternoon. The game preview post will go up at 11:30 am CDT.