The Washington Times - July 17, 2009, 08:15PM

Neither Craig Stammen nor Carlos Zambrano looks sharp (or is working fast) tonight. Unfortuantely for the Nationals, the Cubs are taking advantage of the situation. Washington is not, and thus is trailing 3-1 after three innings.

Stammen has put at least two men on base each of his three innings so far. He escaped the first thanks to a nifty 6-4-3 double play (started by Alberto Gonzalez). But he couldn’t get out of the second inning unscathed, because he couldn’t get the opposing pitcher out.


Zambrano is legitimately one of the best-hitting pitchers in baseball. Since May 3, he’s got two homers and five RBI. (Austin Kearns, by comparison, has zero homers and four RBI in that same span.) Stammen, though, needed to know what he was up against in the Big Z. Instead, the rookie right-hander left an 0-1 pitch over the plate, and Zambrano lashed it to right field for a two-run double. An Aramis Ramirez homer in the third added to the onslaught and extended the Cubs’ lead.

On the other end of the spectrum, Zambrano has labored just as much as his young counterpart. He allowed five of the first six batters he faced in the first inning to reach safely. But as only they can, the Nats brought only one of those runners home. For that, you can thank a bad strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play in which Ryan Zimmerman swung and missed a 3-2 fastball and Nyjer Morgan was gunned down easily at third. Willie Harris managed to draw a bases-loaded walk for the lone run, but Josh Bard was robbed of a base hit moments later by Cubs second baseman Mike Fontenot.

Zimmerman also struck out on a 2-2 fastball with runners on second and third and two outs in the second, stranding a couple more baserunners. The All-Star’s season average is now down to .286.