CHICAGO – The Cubs put their offensive woes on their home field to rest for all of a day.
Chris Rusin (2-3) gave up only two runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings, managing to work out of jam after jam with minimal damage, but the Cubs couldn't get anything going with the bats in a 4-2 loss to the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night.
The Cubs' offense, which scored just 12 runs in eight home games before an 11-run outburst Monday, resumed its Wrigley Field struggles.
Donnie Murphy and Brian Bogusevic had solo homers, but that was it for the Cubs. At home, they have scored 25 runs in their past 10 games – including those 11 on Monday. The Cubs had just six hits and went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
"It is what it is right now," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "We score on home runs. Today, both solo home runs."
Washington went ahead in the top of the first. Ian Desmond reached on a fielder's chose when the Cubs failed to turn a seemingly routine double play, and then scored on Ryan Zimmerman's double to left field.
The Cubs tied it in the bottom of the fourth on Bogusevic's first homer of the season, a two-out shot to right field that landed in the first row of the bleachers.
The Nationals took a 2-1 lead in the sixth when Zimmerman opened with a double, moved to third on Jayson Werth's single and scored one out later on Tyler Moore's run-scoring infield single.
"It's just one of those days as a pitcher where you've got to find out what works when other stuff isn't," Rusin said. "I couldn't find my two-seam (fastball) today but I was able to find some other pitches to get me out of jams. It's just the way baseball is."
Bryce Harper doubled leading off the ninth and scored on Ian Desmond's RBI single to right field. Denard Span, a late-inning defensive replacement, added a run-scoring single for the Nationals' final run.
Rafael Soriano gave up a leadoff homer to Murphy in the bottom of the ninth before getting the last three outs for his 32nd save in 38 chances.
The homer continued Murphy's surge since joining the Cubs on Aug. 3. The homer was his seventh of the year, a career high, with all coming since Aug. 6. In that span, only Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera (eight) has more.
Still, Murphy's home run and double in the second weren't enough to help the Cubs avoid their 14th loss in their last 17 home games.
"It's nice, personally, to do well but at the same time it sucks losing games," Murphy said.
Dan Haren (8-11) kept the Cubs off-balance and frustrated despite not throwing a pitch faster than 89 all night. He allowed just five hits and one run and improved to 4-2 with a 2.20 ERA in eight starts since coming off the disabled list on July 8.
"It's been unbelievable," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "He's been really pitching good. He's shown he's a quality pitcher and he's bounced back and pitched great."
Haren signed a one-year contract with the Nationals last December, and could find himself back on the free-agent market in the offseason. For now, however, that's not his focus.
"As good as I've pitched the last month or so, I still have an ERA in the high fours (4.64). That kind of tells you how bad I was," Haren said. "To think about next year, I haven't thought about that. I want to keep this rolling."
The Cubs have been thinking about next year — and the subsequent seasons — for a while now. And Murphy's emergence has been one of the few positives as Chicago tries to stay competitive as 2013 winds down.
"Hopefully that keeps continuing," Sveum said. "Struggling everywhere else right now."
NOTES: Cubs SS Starlin Castro batted eighth for the first time this season. He went 0 for 4 to extend his slump to 1 for his last 27. "It's just one of those things right now where it's the only fit," Sveum said. ... 1B Anthony Rizzo was back in the lineup after missing Monday with an illness and was 0 for 4. ... Last year against Washington on Sept. 4, Rusin allowed five runs in one inning, and said Tuesday's outing was "better than last year against these guys." ... To make room for RHP Ross Ohlendorf, who is coming off the DL, the Nationals optioned LHP Ian Krol to Triple-A Syracuse. ... The four-game series continues Wednesday night with the Cubs' RHP Jake Arrieta (1-0) taking on Ohlendorf (2-0).