Fister, Wood off to strong starts (Nats lose 5-3)

    We’re through three innings in Chicago and the Cubs and Nationals have managed just four hits.

    Maybe it’s because they can barely see the ball crossing the plate.

    In a city known for its extreme weather, a dense fog has planted itself in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, leaving conditions increasingly tough to battle. Still, with less than full visibility, both teams have had little trouble making plays in the field, but haven’t found much success at the plate.

    Both Cubs starter Travis Wood and Nats starter Doug Fister have been solid, limiting their respective opponents to only an assortment of hits and opportunities to do any damage on offense. Wood has allowed three hits and issued one walk, while Fister’s given up only one hit, a first-inning single to Anthony Rizzo which dropped inconveniently in shallow left field.

    In the second inning, the Nationals strung together a pair of base hits, after Ryan Zimmerman smacked a double to lead off the inning and made a break for home on Wilson Ramos’ single to left field. Zimmerman’s decision to head home was a slight eyebrow raiser, however, as Ramos’ single didn’t get too far into the outfield. Cubs left fielder Ryan Sweeney relayed the ball to home plate with plenty of time to spare and Zimmerman was tagged out at home to keep the Nats off the scoreboard.

    As we head to the fourth, still scoreless in Chicago.

    Update: After being held in check early on, the Cubs’ offense broke through against Fister in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Cubs tallied four hits - including three in a row to start their half of the frame - to stake a 3-0 lead.

    Justin Ruggiano reached on an infield single, then moved to third on a double from Rizzo, his second hit of the night. Both runners came in to score on a two-RBI single from Starlin Castro, putting the home team on top. Castro later scored on an RBI single from Wellington Castillo.

    Fister, meanwhile, has seen his pitch count balloon to 82 through four innings. He’ll have to hope his teammates can get their bats going against Wood, who has been coasting through five innings. Ramos, in his first game since returning from the DL, is 2-for-2, but the Nationals have managed only four hits heading to the sixth.

    Update II: As the fog continues to cover the stadium, the Nationals are starting to cover the bases themselves. In the top of the sixth, a leadoff double from Denard Span was followed by an RBI single from Anthony Rendon, putting the Nats on the scoreboard. It was Rendon’s sixth RBI in his last seven games.

    One inning later, it was Span to the rescue, as the leadoff hitter connected on a two-RBI double to even the score at 3-3. Span was thrown out on the play after getting a little too aggressive rounding second base, but the runs counted and the Nationals have life late in the game. Washington’s 1-2-3 hitters have recorded five of the team’s seven hits and are responsible for all three of the team’s RBIs.

    Update III: Well, that tie didn’t last long.

    After the Nationals tied things up with an RBI double from Span in the top of the seventh, the Cubs countered with two runs of their own. Craig Stammen took over for Fister and was forced to work through some rough waters as a double from Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney and a walk issued to pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan gave Chicago two runners on with only one out in the inning.

    Ruggiano, already with a run scored tonight, delivered an RBI double which cleared the bases, putting the home team back on top 5-3. Ruggiano was tagged out at third base on the play to end the inning.

    Fister’s line for the night wasn’t his strongest, but he did give the Nationals a chance to grab a win in the series opener. He pitched six innings and allowed three earned runs on seven hits. The lone strikeout came against Luis Valbuena, but Fister managed not to issue any free passes.

    As we head to the top of the ninth, the Nats will have one final chance to dig out of the two-run hole.

    Final: That’s the ballgame. In a game that saw the Nationals scatter eight hits and had their starter allow only three runs, their attempt at starting this series off on the right foot fell short. After Washington tied the game in the top of the seventh, the Cubs answered right back and held on for the 5-3 win.

    With the loss, the Nationals fall to 41-37 on the season and hold a one-game lead over the Braves in the NL East.

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