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Road getting rougher

Tribune staff reporter

The Cubs played Washington in the series finale Sunday at RFK Stadium, but after a 7-1 loss, it's debatable whether they actually showed up.

Nationals right-hander Tony Armas Jr., who came in with a 7.15 earned-run average in his last five starts, held the Cubs to one run on three hits over seven innings as the Nationals finished a three-game sweep.

"It is what it is," Cubs center fielder Juan Pierre said. "Yes, it's frustrating. Yes, it's embarrassing. But all you can do is go out there and play hard and try to get some victories."

The Cubs have been swept nine times this season and have lost 11 of their last 13 games against teams from the National League East heading into a three-game series against the New York Mets.

Manager Dusty Baker bristled Sunday when asked if his team looked like it had quit.

"Heck, no," he said. "[Armas] just pitched a good game. We had action in the first game, we scored [three] runs in the second game. So, no, there ain't no quitting down here."

Rookie Carlos Marmol (3-4), coming off back-to-back wins, yielded five runs on six hits in 32/3 innings. Marmol bruised his right hand between the thumb and index finger during his at-bat in the third inning. He left the game in the fourth, following Sean Marshall's early exit Saturday with a strained left oblique muscle.

Neither Marmol, Marshall nor Mark Prior lasted more than four innings in the series. That put more strain on the already depleted bullpen, which welcomed David Aardsma and Michael Wuertz on Sunday.

Baker said he was unsure whether Marmol would miss a start. Marmol was unavailable after the game.

With Alfonso Soriano starring again, everything went wrong for the Cubs, from poor pitching to a lack of clutch hitting to spotty defense.

Even first baseman Derrek Lee, a two-time Gold Glove recipient at first, had Marlon Anderson's grounder go under his mitt with runners on second and third in the seventh, allowing both to score.

Lee went 0-for-4 after sitting out the last three games and is hitting .227 since returning from a broken wrist.

Afterward, the Cubs dressed quickly and left to board a train to New York, a departure from their normal transportation.

"If we keep losing, they might put us on a bus," Pierre said.

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