WASHINGTON — Mechanical issues with their charter delayed the Cubs' flight to Washington by more than three hours Sunday night, a fitting way to kick off their 10-game road trip.
After losing 2-1 to the Nationals on Monday afternoon at Nationals Park, the 2012 Cubs inched closer to becoming the franchise's worst road team in history, falling to 17-49.
Dale Sveum said.
Amazing, perhaps, but true.
With 15 road games remaining, the Cubs need to go 10-5 to avoid tying the lowest road winning percentage (.321) over a 162-game schedule, set by the 1997 club that went 26-55 away from home. They also have a shot at tying the club record of 56 road losses in a season, set by the 1956 team that went 21-56 in a 154-game season.
Jeff Samardzija (8-13) was the hard-luck loser again, allowing one run over seven innings but getting no run support. Adam LaRoche's second-inning home run provided the Nationals with an early lead, while Ross Detwiler and the Nationals' bullpen held the Cubs to one run on five singles and a double.
The Cubs had a chance in the ninth when Welington Castillo drove in a run and pinch runner Tony Campana wound up at second on an errant pick-off attempt by Tyler Clippard. Sveum let rookie Josh Vitters face the right-handed Clippard, despite an .082 average, leaving left-handed-hitting Bryan LaHair on the bench.
"I liked the matchup," Sveum said. "Clippard is really, really tough against left-handers, doesn't give up anything to them."
Vitters struck out to end the game.
"He got the two fastballs I was expecting," Sveum said. "Right-handers just have better at-bats against (Clippard) for some reason. ... (Vitters) just didn't hit the two pitches he got."
The Cubs' magic number to avoid 100 losses remained at 12, and they still have a shot at tying the club record of 103 losses. The road trip to Washington, Pittsburgh and Houston will have a big say in whether this team goes down in history for the wrong reasons.
Since the All-Star break, the Cubs have won only three road games. With four road wins, Samardzija is the only remaining starter with more than one. Travis Wood, who beat the Mets in New York on July 6, is the only other active starter with even one road win.
The Cubs have yet to win more than two straight games on the road and have won only 15 road games outside the city limits, since a pair of wins came at U.S. Cellular Field in June.
While it has been a nightmarish season, the Cubs battled the division-leading Giants and Nationals the last four games, only to come up short the last three days.
"That's a sign of a team that needs to go a long way before you start winning those games," Sveum said. "You've seen the last couple games where they've added on runs. The two first-place teams are battling and having great at-bats. That's where we have to get to, and we're not there yet."