CHICAGO -- The long ball ended up hurting left-hander Ross Detwiler as the Nationals lost to the Cubs, 4-2, on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.
Washington got off to a good start in the first inning. With a runner on first and right-hander Rodrigo Lopez on the mound, Michael Morse hit a ground ball to shortstop Starlin Castro, who tried to get the force play at second. But Castro threw the ball past second baseman Darwin Barney, allowing Ryan Zimmerman -- who had singled to extend his hitting streak to 18 games -- to score all the way from first base.
The Cubs tied the score at 1 in the second inning, when Detwiler allowed a solo homer to Geovany Soto.
"It was just OK," manager Davey Johnson said of Detwiler's start. "It's just a tough ballpark to pitch in. You leave anything up or you make any mistakes on the inside part of the plate, you are going to get hurt."
Two innings later, Soto scored all the way from first on a double down the right-field line by Alfonso Soriano. As he was getting close to the brick wall, Jayson Werth had no choice but to dive feet first, and the ball went past him for a hit.
The Cubs made it a 3-1 game in the fifth inning, when Reed Johnson hit a solo homer.
Detwiler lasted five innings and allowed three runs on seven hits. With the wind blowing out, Johnson felt Detwiler needed to be perfect on the mound. And he wasn't in the fourth inning.
Besides allowing the RBI double to Soriano, Detwiler found himself in a bases-loaded jam. It didn't help that Detwiler allowed a single to Lopez, on a changeup, to load the bases. However, Detwiler managed to get out of the inning by striking out Castro.
"[In the fourth inning], he threw a changeup to the pitcher," Johnson said. "Pitchers can't hit very well, but they certainly like high changeups. The good news is, Detwiler came back and struck out Castro, but that was a huge mistake."
What stuck out for Detwiler was not getting a bunt down in the top of the fifth inning. After Jesus Flores singled with one out, Detwiler couldn't move him over to second. Instead, he popped up to Soto for the second out of the inning. Rick Ankiel was the next hitter, and he doubled to put runners on second and third. The runners were left stranded when Danny Espinosa grounded out to end the inning.
"I know it would have been a tie game if I got the bunt down," Detwiler said. "The other things you can't really control. They are professional hitters. If I get the bunt down there and we score a run, it's a completely different game."
Detwiler will remain in the rotation, according to Johnson, but there are improvements to be made.
"He pitched all right, but there are still some things he has to work on -- consistently keep the ball down, tightening up the breaking ball a little bit at times," pitching coach Steve McCatty said.
Washington made it close in the sixth inning, when Lopez allowed a solo homer to Werth, his 14th of the season. Lopez allowed two runs -- one earned -- in 5 2/3 innings.
"He has been pitching a long time," Werth said of Lopez. "He knows what he is doing out there. He moved the ball around, changed speeds, he kept us off balance, really. I was able to get it up in the air. This time of year here in Chicago, you get one up, it goes."
But the Cubs scored the final run of the game in the bottom of the frame, when reliever Collin Balester allowed a solo homer to Soriano to keep the Nats at bay.
It was Soriano's 20th home run, marking the 10th consecutive season in which he has reached the 20-homer mark.
"You know it's going to be there and you know he's going to hit 20 [homers] and change, and the only thing now is he won't steal 40 bases like he did years ago," Cubs manager Quade said of Soriano. "He's an interesting guy because he goes through streaks when he struggles, and you don't know when he's going to come out of it and do some damage. He had two big hits tonight -- the ball down the right-field line was huge, too."
With the loss, the Nationals are 56-60 for the season.
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.