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WSH@CHC: Valbuena ties the game with a two-run homer

CHICAGO -- Jeff Samardzija will be happy to turn the calendar to July, even if it does mean more trade rumors.

Adam LaRoche and Wilson Ramos each hit solo home runs off Samardzija to spark the Nationals to a 7-2 victory Saturday night over the Cubs and complete a sweep of a day-night doubleheader. Chicago lost the day game, 3-0, and the two teams split the four-game series.

"It was a tough day all day today," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "Today totally was not our day."

Samardzija, whose name has been mentioned as possible trade bait most of the year, served up six runs (five earned) over five innings in the game, which was interrupted by rain. In six starts in June, he has given up 20 earned runs over 33 innings (5.45 ERA). Compare that to his first 11 starts of the season when he gave up 11 earned runs over 75 innings (1.32 ERA).

Samardzija didn't feel he's having a June swoon, saying he prefers to look at each outing individually.

"You can break numbers up any way you want," Samardzija said. "You can say on Wednesdays, he doesn't pitch real good, and this and that. Every game is its own separate thing, and if some of those games happen to match up together and make your numbers in a certain month, then so be it.

"We don't break numbers down by month but go start to start. I feel great and the ball is coming out good and the pitches are good. We maybe need to mix up our pitch selection a little and get some earlier outs and get the offense back out there."

Samardzija said he felt good enough to pitch deep, and he was frustrated to be pulled after the fifth.

"He's a guy who wants to grind it out and stay in there and keep getting after it, but today just wasn't his day," Renteria said. "There were a lot of seeing-eye hits today that found some holes, and I thought it was just best to go ahead and shorten it up for him. He wasn't too happy -- he wanted to stay in there and he wanted to help us, but today was not his day."

"What could he do?" catcher Welington Castillo said of Samardzija. "We threw a pitch, and they hit it and got a couple base hits in a row straight to the middle."

The right-hander entered the game ranked sixth in the National League with a 2.53 ERA, and that figure is now 2.83. He had quality starts in 12 of his 16 outings, but not Saturday night.

LaRoche gave the Nationals the lead with a leadoff home run in the second, the sixth off Samardzija this season and fifth by a left-handed batter. Nate McLouth doubled to open the third, and one out later, scored on Anthony Rendon's sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead.

The Cubs tied the game with one out in the fourth when Starlin Castro reached on an infield single and Luis Valbuena followed with his fifth home run.

Rain halted play for 55 minutes, and both Samardzija and Nationals starter Blake Treinen returned to the mound after the delay. Samardzija spent the time in the dugout so he could stay "mentally prepared."

Washington batted around in the fifth. Ramos led off with a home run to make it 3-2, marking the first time this season he's given up two homers in one game. One out later, McLouth was hit by a pitch, and Rendon, Kevin Frandsen and Jayson Werth each singled, with runs scoring on the latter two hits for a 5-2 lead. LaRoche reached on a fielding error by first baseman Anthony Rizzo, which allowed another run to score.

"They came out of the rain delay and they jumped on me right off the bat," Samardzija said. "They hit some fastballs over the plate and hit them up the middle and made me keep throwing pitches. They did a good job. They were ready out of the break. I probably needed to spin a couple more pitches and give them a different look."

Once again, Samardzija didn't get much run support, and he now has received two or fewer runs in 11 of his 17 starts.

With the sweep, the Nationals kept pace with the Braves in the NL East, while the Cubs are on pace to lose 93 games. It's the second time Chicago has been swept in a doubleheader, having lost two games to the Yankees in an brief Interleague series on April 16 in New York.

The doubleheader was scheduled for Saturday to avoid congestion expected in the neighborhood for Sunday's Pride Parade. Alderman Tom Tunney, whose ward includes Wrigley Field, had requested the schedule change, which was announced in February. It's the Cubs' first regularly scheduled doubleheader since July 4, 1983, when they played two against the Expos.

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