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Cubs lose to Nationals

(MCT) WASHINGTON — It seems like eons ago that Jeff Samardzija beat the Pirates on opening day at PNC Park in a start Cubs manager Dale Sveum called the best game Samardzija had pitched.

"I'd say 'pitch' is the key word there," Samardzija said afterward. "I really thought it was one of the best-pitched games I've thrown."

It was a high point in Samardzija's career, seemingly establishing him as the ace of the staff in Year 2 of the rebuild.

But nearly six weeks later, Samardzija still is searching for his second win.

He suffered his fifth straight defeat in a 7-3 loss to the Nationals on Friday at Nationals Park, contributing to his downfall with a costly error.

"It's not really affecting me," Samardzija said of the streak. "I know personally how I've felt, how I've pitched in each outing. I've got to take a positive out of today."

Samardzija allowed seven runs on eight hits over five innings, putting the Cubs in a hole they couldn't climb out of despite 10 hits, including seven doubles. It was Samardzija's worst outing of 2013; he had allowed two or fewer earned runs in four of his previous seven starts.

But Samardzija said he was OK with his stuff, saying his fastball command was fine.

"I'm trying to replay in my head right now," he said. "Obviously there are a couple pitches I'd like to get back."

One came with the score tied 2-2 in the fourth, when Ian Desmond took a slider over the wall for a two-run homer to give the Nationals the lead for keeps. With two out in the fifth, Samardzija gave up a walk, a single, a run-scoring double by Desmond and a two-run double by Danny Espinoza to break the game open.

Samardzija committed an error on a comebacker in the second, leading to a two-run double by Kurt Suzuki that Scott Hairston misplayed in right.

"Originally I just wanted to go two with it and turn the double play," Samardzija said of the error. "Once I kicked it the first time, it just turned into one of those (where I) keep reaching for it and trying to hurry. I've got to calm down and just barehand it and try to throw it to first. That was my bad."

Sveum called it "kind of a strange outing" for Samardzija.

"But we've got to field a ground ball back to us," he said. "We seem to make a mistake and we can't make a pitch after that."

Scott Feldman, Edwin Jackson and Samardzija have combined for seven errors in their 21 starts. It has been a recurring theme, but Sveum said he's not going to call for more pitchers fielding practices.

"We couldn't do more than we did in spring training," he said.

The offense showed some life against Ross Detwiler (2-3), but not when it mattered most. The Cubs were 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

"Strange game," Sveum said. "You throw 102 pitches, you should win, let alone give up seven runs. Then to have seven doubles and score only three runs, two on groundouts. ... Very, very strange game tonight."

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