Rally falls short, Nationals lose to Cubs, 4-3

Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann was pitching efficiently and looked like he was headed towards another one of his outstanding starts.

Cubs starter Ryan Dempster (10-8) allowed only a Ryan Zimmerman home run in the first, so that did not give Jordan much wiggle room in the late stages of the game.

Sound familiar?

Zimmermann hasn't had much run support all season long. It happened again Thursday at Wrigley Field as the Chicago Cubs beat the Washington Nationals, 4-3.

With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Aramis Ramirez cranked a two-run homer. Carlos Pena followed with a solo shot that ended Zimmermann's day, and the Cubs led 4-1.

The other Zimmerman crushed a Ryan Dempster slider over the left field fence in the first inning to give the Nationals an early 1-0 advantage. With the round tripper, Zimmerman's hitting streak is now at 19 games. It is second only to his 30-game hit streak in 2009.

The Cubs got on the board in the fourth inning with a pair of former Nationals getting it started. Marlon Byrd singled and Alphonso Soriano followed with a triple to right center that Jayson Werth dove for but was unable to come up with the catch. Byrd scored and the game was tied, 1-1.

Nationals had a couple of chances in the game to get something going, but Danny Espinosa was caught stealing at second base both times.

Later in the seventh, the Nats had an opportunity washed away on a double play. With Jonny Gomes on first, Laynce Nix's hot shot up the first base line was caught by Carlos Pena, whjo stepped on first and through to second base where Starlin Castro tagged out Gomes.

The Nationals rallied in the eighth off of Cubs relievers. Ian Desmond hit a double and a wild pitch got him to third. After an out, pinch-hitter Brian Bixler slapped a hard grounder the shortstop Castro had trouble handling and was safe at first with an RBI single, making it 4-2 Cubs.

Rick Ankiel followed with a single. But Kerry Wood arrived and struck out Danny Espinosa and Zimmerman to end the threat.

The Nationals had the bases loaded in the ninth against Carlos Marmol with no one out, but could manage just one run before Ankiel flied out to center field to end the game. Marmol threw 34 pitches in the inning, but notched save No. 26.

Zimmermann (7-10) went 6 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on nine hits, two homers, two walks and seven strikeouts.

Dempster gave up only three hits in seven innings, allowing one run, two walks and six strikeouts, including getting Werth three times on punch outs.

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