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Ruggiano’s two-run double leads Cubs over Nationals

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Updated: June 26, 2014 11:23PM

When the Cubs or anybody else looks at the first-place Washington Nationals they see a team that’s built a powerful rotation, one that’s the envy of most teams in baseball. There’s ace Stephen Strasburg, who’s followed by Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, emerging Tanner Roark and Thursday’s starter Doug Fister.

But when the Cubs take a look at Washington, they’ll also see a rotation built in varied ways. Strasburg was the much-ballyhooed first overall pick in the 2009 draft, and the Nats also added Zimmermann in 2007’s second round.

That, however, is where the list of homegrown Nationals starters ends, something that could also serve as a lesson to the Cubs and perhaps foreshadow their future. Washington certainly got a head-start to building its rotation by drafting Strasburg and Zimmermann, but it filled out the rest by trading for Roark in July 2010, Gonzalez in Dec. 2011, and Fister last offseason.

The fact the Nats built their rotation that way should be encouraging for the Cubs, who have one of the best groups of minor-league hitters but haven’t seen the pitching prospects come on as strong.

That might not be a problem if the Cubs build their own rotation with help from the outside via trades like Washington. Travis Wood, one example of that, pitched Thursday for the Cubs in their 5-3 win over the Nationals.

Thursday wasn’t Wood’s best outing – he allowed three runs in 6 2/3 innings while walking five and couldn’t hold a 3-0 lead – but it was still a quality start despite not having his best stuff.

“We need that. Our bullpen’s been worked pretty hard and he did a great job working his pitches, getting out of jams when he needed to and getting double-play balls,” said Justin Ruggiano, whose two-run double in the seventh gave the Cubs the 5-3 lead. “It was a typical Travis Wood performance.”

Wood was picked up in Dec. 2011 from Cincinnati for Sean Marshall and has emerged as a potential piece for the future when Kris Bryant and Javy Baez arrive. He was an all-star last season and led the Cubs with 24 quality starts.

If that sounds like a Washington deal, it should. Marshall hasn’t done much for the Reds since leaving Wrigley, while players the Nats have dealt haven’t exactly made them regret the trades.

Of course, Wood has to show his 2013 season wasn’t his highlight. This year hasn’t quite been like that, though his 77-39 strikeout-to-walk ratio is similar to last season’s (144-66). Thursday was also his 16th start, and he’s allowed nine home runs, not far off the pace he was on last year when he gave up 18 in 200 innings.

June has also seen Wood recover from a tough May when he had a 6.62 ERA.

“Every day’s different,” Wood said. “Just got to take it in stride, learn from your last start and get after it. By the end of the year we’ll be there. We’ll be there.”

That would be a boon to the Cubs, both now and in the future. If and when Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel are dealt, Wood will be looked to for more leadership in the rotation this season. And that would also be a positive sign for years to come, when the Cubs are looking to add and not make deals with the future in mind.

“He’s starting to continue to put himself back maybe where he was at last year in terms of his improvement,” manager Rick Renteria said.

If the Cubs want to emulate the Nats, that improvement might have to continue.

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