Seven Cubs rookies pounded by Nationals

WAHSINGTON -- It was a sink-or-swim kind of night for the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday and the results were predictably disastrous.

The Cubs used seven rookie pitchers against the first-place Washington Nationals, and they gave up six home runs. In fact, the home runs were the most ever for a D.C.-based team in a home game.

Manager Dale Sveum has said he wants to field competitive teams, especially when facing contenders down the stretch, but circumstances guided his hand in this one.

Chris Rusin, in just his second big-league start, gave up five runs on eight hits while only recording three outs. With the game out of reach early, Sveum went with his designated innings eaters over proven relievers.

It was getting so bad that Sveum considered using utility man Joe Mather as a pitcher for the second time this season. Had this game happened before rosters were expanded on Sept. 1, Sveum would have gone with a different strategy.

“You could have double switched and got two innings out of somebody,” he said. “The only good thing about losing on the road is that you only have to go eight innings. The game was never super out of hand. You never know, but Lendy (Castillo) would have probably been in the game if it was a week ago.”

Castillo ended up being the only rookie reliever the Cubs didn’t use out of their bullpen.

“Even though we gave up a lot of runs, the bullpen gave it up but they didn’t give up too many pitches,” Sveum said. “That was probably the bright spot of the day.”

It actually wasn’t all doom and gloom. Jaye Chapman, who was acquired in the trade that sent Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm to the Atlanta Braves, pitched a hitless inning, while Blake Parker followed by with his own scoreless inning.

But that was about it for pitching success, unless you consider that Rafael Dolis didn’t walk anybody. But that conveniently ignores the fact that he gave up three runs and two home runs.

“Hopefully that builds on something because when he left he was having trouble,” Sveum said. “Hopefully he has confidence. The velocity was good again but the location and the movement still wasn’t there. But at least he threw strikes.”

It’s all about making an impression over the final month and the young Cubs pitchers will have to use the next 27 games to prove their worth heading into next spring training.

“There is always a chance to make an impression, but you can’t have outings like this,” Rusin said. “You have to go out there and keep the ball down and hit your spots. Hopefully you can make an impression but I didn’t do well tonight. Hopefully I’ll learn from the mistakes, it was good experience, and bounce back next time.”