WASHINGTON (AP) - Chicago Cubs starter Randy Wells has had a very rough first half of the season. At least now he can look forward to the All-Star break and pressing the reset button.
``Is there one of those?' Wells asked. ``If there is, let me know about it.'
Wells gave up a pair of two-run home runs over four innings in a 5-4 loss to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night, although another pair of two-run shots by Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez for the Cubs left Wells with a no-decision.
The loss fell to Kerry Wood (1-4), who gave up the tiebreaking run in the seventh inning when Wilson Ramos drove in Michael Morse on a suicide squeeze.
Wells gave up four runs and 10 hits - including the homers by Danny Espinosa and Ryan Zimmerman - and was removed after the first four batters reached base in the fifth. He hasn't won since straining his right forearm in a start on April 4. Since coming off the disabled list on May 28, he is 0-3 with a 7.41 ERA.
``Things aren't there,' Wells said. ``I don't think it's any particular pitch, it's just confidence and the ability to make pitches when you need to. There's a lot of areas I need to improve on and trying to pinpoint one is pretty tough right now.'
Wood, who has also had a few rough outings after missing most of June with a blister on his right index finger, came on in the seventh and gave up a leadoff double to Morse. Morse then advanced to third on Jayson Werth's flyout, setting up the squeeze play.
Ramos pulled off the sacrifice after missing the sign earlier in the count. He swung away with Morse charging home on the first pitch from Wood but managed to foul it off, saving the Nationals from a costly embarrassing out.
``I thought it was kind of a gutsy call,' Wood said. ``Especially off a guy that couldn't throw strikes here tonight as badly as I was off. But it worked out for them, and they got the 'W.''
The Cubs have now lost three straight and five of the last six. Chicago will look to avoid the four-game series sweep Thursday.
``I just think we're tired of losing,' Wood said. ``We still have to come to work tomorrow and try to win a game. It's not tough. It's just frustrating.'
Ryan Mattheus (2-0) pitched one inning to get his second major league win - and second in five days - for the Nationals, who continue to take all their victories down to the wire. Each of their last 10 wins has been by either one run or in extra innings, and they are 13-3 in one-run games since June 1.
Washington starter Tom Gorzelanny allowed four runs and seven hits over six innings, and Drew Storen pitched the ninth for his 22nd save.
The Nationals wasted plenty of chances to put the Cubs away. Washington stranded runners in scoring position in each of the first six innings and finished 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position.
``We've been hanging around but just haven't been able to get over the top,' Cubs manager Mike Quade said. ``It seems like we're always fighting an uphill battle here lately.'
Although Wells initially laughed off the idea of finding a reset button during the All-Star break, he acknowledged he's ready for the brief vacation.
``Obviously, the time off's going to be good,' Wells said. ``Everybody looks for that fresh start to the second half to build on, and I'm no different.'
NOTES: The Cubs will decide Thursday whether RHP Ryan Dempster can make his scheduled start on Saturday. Dempster was hospitalized over the weekend with back pain and missed his start Monday. ... RHP Ramon Ortiz, who had a respectable outing in his Cubs debut Tuesday, will stay in the rotation for now and pitch again Sunday. ... Gorzelanny singled in the fourth for his first hit of the year, ending an 0-for-20 start to the season. ... Espinosa's home run was his 16th, the most among second baseman in the majors as well as the most among all rookies.
The Associated Press News Service
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