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Another tough loss for Matt Garza as Nationals beat Cubs 3-1

Matt Garztries regroup after giving up two-run home run Jonny Gomes Tuesday night. | Brian Kersey~Getty Images

Matt Garza tries to regroup after giving up a two-run home run to Jonny Gomes on Tuesday night. | Brian Kersey~Getty Images

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Updated: November 16, 2011 1:24AM

Lamenting the circumstances surrounding hard-luck losses doesn’t change them, and Cubs pitcher Matt Garza never has complained about the balls that haven’t bounced his way this season.

Another tough 3-1 loss Tuesday to the Washington Nationals was about two hanging sliders in the sixth inning that decided what had been a gritty pitchers’ duel between Garza (5-9) and Chien-Ming Wang (1-2), who no-hit the Cubs through five innings in only his third start since returning from shoulder surgery two years ago.

‘‘Wang had his sinker going great,’’ Garza said. ‘‘You put the ball down in the zone, and you get a lot of ground-ball outs.’’

The only hit off Wang came when Tony Campana led off the sixth as a pinch hitter for Garza and singled sharply to the right side of the infield.

The Taiwanese native left after six, and the Cubs had only two more hits, including Starlin Castro’s sixth homer of the season in the eighth off Tyler Clippard for the Cubs’ only run.

The Nationals scored their runs on homers, too, both in the sixth. The first was a booming drive to the top of the batter’s eye in center field by Michael Morse, followed two batters later by Jonny Gomes’ homer to left with Jayson Werth on base.

Garza hadn’t allowed two homers in one inning since Sept. 8, 2010, in Boston while a member of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Without that inning, Garza and relievers James Russell, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol could boast a strong night. They combined for 15 strikeouts.

‘‘I know he’d like that slider back against Morse,’’ manager Mike Quade said of Garza, who had nine strikeouts and allowed six hits in six innings.

‘‘He threw the ball well, but Wang was good — ground ball after ground ball — and he did it efficiently. The velocity wasn’t what it used to be, the power sinker, but he did have good movement on the fastball.’’

The game was one more frustration for a pitcher who has out-performed his record.

Garza is one of only five major-league pitchers who have five victories or fewer in at least 20 starts with an ERA below 4.00.

The others are the Detroit Tigers’ Doug Fister (4-12, 3.29), the San Diego Padres’ Dustin Moseley (3-10, 3.30), the New York Mets’ R.A. Dickey (5-10, 3.72) and the Houston Astros’ Bud Norris (5-8, 3.73).

Garza has left games six times with a lead, only to not factor into the decision. In his last five starts entering Tuesday, he led in four but emerged with the victory only once.

In his last eight starts at home, he’s 3-2 with a 2.65 ERA, including a 1.75 ERA in his last five.

And in losing, he still had his 13th quality start.

‘‘Mechanically, I felt off,’’ he said. ‘‘[The homers came on] hanging sliders. Usually that’s what happens when you hang a slider in this league.’’

Though the Cubs had little to show offensively, their one constant bat continues to thrive.

Castro’s homer to right-center field added to his streak of having scored a run in a career-high 10 straight games, the longest streak by a Cub since Mark DeRosa’s 10-game streak from May 9 to May 19, 2008. The last Cub to score in 11 consecutive games was Rick Monday from Aug. 21 to Sept. 3, 1976.

Castro has hit in nine consecutive games. He’s hitting .463 (19-for-41) with 12 runs scored, three doubles, three homers, nine RBI and six multihit games during the streak.

‘‘Amazing,’’ Quade said. ‘‘Again, a home run. When you have a guy with that kind of swing and who can square up and hit the ball, that’s what happens. Hopefully, he doesn’t change a thing. He’s put together a great offensive year.’’

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