CHICAGO -- The Nationals and Cubs found themselves in a pitchers' duel on Sunday afternoon. When it was over, it was Chicago that edged Washington, 4-3, at Wrigley Field. It was Washington's first loss of the season.
Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (0-1) pitched seven solid innings and allowed two runs -- one earned -- on six hits. He struck out four and walked none.
"I was able to locate the fastball pretty well, and the curveball and slider were both there today," Zimmermann said. "I felt good and felt comfortable throwing everything, any time in the count."
Zimmermann did receive a scare in the fourth inning when a line drive off the bat of Darwin Barney hit him on his right hamstring, but he remained in the game.
"I felt fine," Zimmermann said
In the sixth inning, with the score tied at 1, Chicago had a runner on third when Alfonso Soriano singled to left field, scoring Barney.
Zimmermann made it through the seventh unscathed, handing the ball to the bullpen to start the eighth. Ryan Mattheus entered the game for the second consecutive day and allowed a double by Starlin Castro which scored David DeJesus with the Cubs' third run of the game, and Ian Stewart plated Castro with a single off Sean Burnett later in the frame.
Mattheus didn't make any excuses for his disappointing outing. He was unable to keep the ball down in the strike zone. He felt the turning point was the leadoff walk to DeJesus.
"I couldn't make that last pitch to DeJesus, and he got the leadoff walk," Mattheus said. "I hung a slider to Castro. I have to get the ball down. I can't walk that leadoff guy. It always comes back and gets you."
The Nationals didn't have an answer for Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija for most of the game. The Nats' first run was scored in the sixth inning, when Wilson Ramos came home on a sacrifice fly by Danny Espinosa. At one point during the game, Samardzija retired 15 straight hitters.
"[Samardzija] had three good pitches," Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond said. "He was out there grinding. He went anywhere from 90 to 98 [mph] on his fastball, and he had a split, occasional cut. He was out there and he was pumping strikes."
However, the Nationals made it a game against Samardzija in the ninth inning, when Adam LaRoche hit a two-run homer over the right-field wall to make it a one-run contest. It was LaRoche's second home run in as many days.
"LaRoche is a great fastball hitter, and I tried to blow his doors off, and he took it about 400 feet to right," Samardzija said. "That's the way it goes. I'd been throwing him soft all game, and I let my ego get in the way there a little bit."
Like their previous two games, the Nationals thought they were going to win in the late innings.
"We were all in the dugout waiting for the next guy to get up," Desmond said.
The Cubs brought in closer Carlos Marmol to get that final out and, like the previous two games, it wasn't easy. He walked Jayson Werth, who represented the tying run. Xavier Nady then came to the plate, swung at a 1-2 pitch and ended the game with a foul popup to Stewart at third base.
"I figured if we stay within one run, we'd win the ballgame," manager Davey Johnson said. "Unfortunately, the leadoff walk by Mattheus in the eighth, and then they scored two runs. I still thought we had a pretty good chance.
"But you have to tip your hat to [Samardzija]. He pitched one heck of a ballgame. He kept us off balance, and was ahead for most of the hitters. It was a low-pitch game. He was outstanding."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.