The Washington Times - July 17, 2009, 09:00PM

If you were Jim Riggleman and I told you before tonight’s game that Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano would be pulled after five innings having thrown 113 pitches, you’d probably take that.

Well, Zambrano’s ineffectiveness still wasn’t enough to give the Nationals the lead. We’re through six innings here, and it’s still 3-1.

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Washington put seven man on base over the game’s first two innings, yet scored just one run (on Willie Harris’ bases-loaded walk). Zambrano then retired nine of the next 11 men from the third through the fifth innings, settling in nicely.

The Nats are going to regret not taking better advantage of the early scoring opportunities. Craig Stammen also settled down and wound up with a quality start — three runs over six innings. He’s given his team a chance to win, but the only way that will happen is if Washington gets some clutch hitting late and some effective work out of its bullpen.