Rapid Reaction: Nationals 2, Cubs 1

CHICAGO -- Ian Stewart nearly tied it in the ninth with a home run, but it wasn’t meant to be, as the Cubs lost their first game in the Theo Epstein era 2-1 to the Washington Nationals.

HOW IT HAPPENED: The Nationals did more damage in two innings against the Cubs' bullpen than they did in 7 2/3 innings against Ryan Dempster. The Cubs' Opening Day starter gave up just two hits, but Kerry Wood couldn’t get the call he needed from plate umpire Dana DeMuth and walked three consecutive batters for the tying run in the eighth. Carlos Marmol gave up a run in the ninth.

WHAT IT MEANS: So much for optimistic beginnings. The good news for the Cubs is that Dempster was able to get off to a good start, something he didn’t come close to doing last season. The Cubs' offense was shaky, but that was expected against Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg. If there was anything impressive about the offense, it was that it took advantage for a run when the Nationals opened the door ever so slightly in the fourth inning. The Cubs couldn’t take advantage of the bullpen, though, like the Nationals did.

OUTSIDE THE BOX: Wood saw extremely limited action this spring as the Cubs tried to preserve him by keeping his innings down, and there appeared to be some rust. Wood didn’t get the call on close pitches to Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. On Werth he was up 0-2 before issuing the walk that forced home the tying run.

UP NEXT: After an off day Friday, the Cubs resume their season-opening series Saturday with right-hander Matt Garza facing off against Washington Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez in a 12:05 p.m. start from Wrigley Field.