Game Eighty-Nine – Cubs 6 Nationals 5
WP – Randy Wells (5-4) LP – Jordan Zimmermann (3-5) Save – Kevin Gregg (18)
The Nationals took an early 4-0 lead on Randy Wells. They scored a pair of runs in the first and second inning and with the way young Jordan Zimmermann was mowing the Cubs down (set a career-high with eight strikeouts) it looked like it was going to be a long night. But that all changed in the third inning …
Ryan Theriot knocked in Koyie Hill and Kosuke Fukudome with a one-out triple to right. Theriot’s third three-bagger of the year cut the Nationals lead in half. Jordan Zimmermann went on cruise control after Theriot’s triple and sat down the Cubs in order in the fourth. Kosuke Fukudome singled with two outs in the fifth but was stranded at first to end the inning.
Derrek Lee turned in the defensive play of the game in the eighth and started the three-run sixth inning with a ground rule double to left. After an error by Willie Harris allowed Aramis Ramirez to reach, Alfonso Soriano hit his first home run since June 7 in Cincinnati. Soriano’s three-run shot to right center off of Zimmerman gave the Cubs a 5-4 lead.
Mike Fontenot hit his first home run since June 9 in Houston in the eighth. His one-run homer to right gave the Cubs’ pen breathing room … and it turned out to be the difference in the game.
After laboring through the first two innings, Randy Wells settled down and made it through five innings on Saturday night. Wells did not give up any more runs after dodging a bullet in the third. Wells faced the minimum in the fourth after Koyie Hill picked off Nick Johnson from first base to end the inning … and he retired the Nationals in order for the first time in the fifth to end his day.
The bullpen as a whole did not fare much better than Randy Wells but they made the big pitch when they needed it. The Nationals put at least two runners on bases in six of the nine innings but managed only one run after the second inning. The Nationals left 12 on base Saturday night and finished the game 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position … with two sacrifice flies.
Angel Guzman gave up a hit and a walk in his two-thirds of an inning. Sean Marshall continued his fine work and stranded Guzman’s two runners in the sixth. Marshall got into trouble of his own in the seventh and Lou Piniella had to bring in Carlos Marmol.
Carlos Marmol’s command issues continued on Saturday night. Marmol did not allow any runs or hits but hit the first batter he faced, Josh Willingham, to load the bases. Marmol induced a ground out to Derrek Lee off the bat of Willie Harris for the first out. After Lee bobbled the ball, he threw home and forced Ryan Zimmerman at the plate. Alberto Gonzalez then grounded out to Aramis Ramirez at third to end the inning. Marmol threw 14 pitches, 6 for strikes.
Aaron Heilman was horrible once again. Heilman walked two batters gave up a hit and recorded only one out before leaving with the bases loaded in the eighth. Kevin Gregg came in and turned in one of his best outings as a Cub.
Gregg surrendered a sacrifice fly to Ryan Zimmerman that plated Ronnie Belliard with the Nationals fifth run … but it was also the second out of the inning. After a walk to Adam Dunn re-loaded the bases, Josh Willingham hit a chopper down the third base line. Aramis Ramirez made a good pick on the ball behind the bag but his throw was low to Derrek Lee. Lee scooped the ball and pumped his fist as he left the field … inning over.
Kevin Gregg retired the Nationals in order in the ninth for his 18th save.
The Cubs put together a good win on the road in come-from-behind fashion … and improved to three games over .500 for the year. For the first time in several weeks, the offense bailed out a starting pitcher. Randy Wells had surrendered five total runs in the first inning in his first 12 starts but gave up two on Saturday night. Wells was not fooling the Nationals at all and they jumped on him early in the count.
Nyjer Morgan continued his solid series with a leadoff double in the first. Nick Johnson followed with a single to left but Morgan held at third. Ryan Zimmerman then hit a sacrifice fly to deep center on a 1-0 pitch from Wells. Zimmerman crushed the ball.
With Adam Dunn at the plate, Nick Johnson took second on a delayed steal on a 1-1 pitch. Dunn then ripped Wells’ next pitch into left center, his first hit of series plated Johnson with the Nationals’ second run. Josh Willingham flied out to deep right center on a 3-0 pitch for the second out … and Willie Harris flied out to left to end the inning.
Wells threw 24 pitches in the first inning, 12 for strikes … and it was obvious early on that he did not have it on Saturday.
Wil Nieves started the two-run second inning with a one-out single to right. Jordan Zimmermann sacrificed him to second. Nyjer Morgan blooped another single, this one into right center and drove in Nieves with the Nationals third run. Morgan took second on Fukudome’s throw to the plate.
Nick Johnson singled to center on a 1-2 pitch and plated Morgan with the fourth run in two innings.
Randy Wells continued to struggle in the third. Adam Dunn walked on four pitches to start the inning. Wells then hit Josh Willingham on a 0-2 pitch. With runners on first and second and no outs, Willie Harris flied out to deep center … Dunn tagged and advanced to third.
With one out and runners on first and third, Jim Riggleman called for the hit and run on a 0-1 pitch to Alberto Gonzalez. Gonzalez hit a routine grounder to short. Ryan Theriot saw Willingham breaking for second and threw to the plate. The Cubs caught Adam Dunn in a rundown. Randy Wells eventually tagged out Dunn for the second out of the inning (for those scoring at home the play went 6-2-5-1). Wil Nieves grounded out to second to end the inning.
Randy Wells left after five innings and four runs on seven hits with a walk and a strikeout.
Angel Guzman retired the first two batters he faced in the sixth. After an 11-pitch at bat to Willie Harris resulted in a fly out to left, Alberto Gonzalez popped out to second on a 0-1 pitch. Wil Nieves then doubled to left center on the first pitch from Guzman. Austin Kearns pinch-hit for Sean Burnett and walked.
Sean Marshall replaced Angel Guzman and retired Nyjer Morgan on a ground out to second to end the inning. Marshall stranded two more inherited runners … on the year only one of 25 inherited runners has scored against Sean Marshall.
Marshall started the seventh and gave up a one-out bloop single to Ryan Zimmerman. Adam Dunn walked and Lou Piniella went to his pen for Carlos Marmol. Marmol hit Josh Willingham on a 3-2 pitch … the eighth batter Marmol has hit this season. With the bases loaded, Willie Harris grounded to Derrek Lee on a 2-0 pitch. Lee bobbled the ball but threw home and forced Zimmerman for the second out. Alberto Gonzalez hit a routine grounder to Aramis Ramirez on a 2-2 pitch. Ramirez stepped on the bag and forced Dunn to end the inning.
Aaron Heilman retired Wil Nieves on a lineout to Derrek Lee on his first pitch to start the eighth. Ronnie Belliard pinch-hit for Jason Bergmann and walked. Nyjer Morgan singled to right on a 0-1 pitch. Milton Bradley bobbled the ball and the error allowed Belliard to advance to third. Nick Johnson walked on the ninth pitch of the at bat to load the bases.
Lou Piniella wasted no time and brought in Kevin Gregg with the Cubs up by two and one out in the eighth.
Ryan Zimmerman hit a deep fly out to right on a 1-0 pitch. Belliard tagged and scored easily. Morgan advanced to third and Adam Dunn stepped in. Dunn ended up walking to re-load the bases. Josh Willingham then grounded out to Aramis Ramirez on the eighth pitch of the at bat, a 3-2 count. Ramirez made a nice pick on the chopper but made a low throw to Derrek Lee. Lee made a great scoop … inning over.
The Cubs offense began the comeback in the third inning. Koyie Hill doubled to left on the first pitch of the at bat. Randy Wells sacrificed him to third. Kosuke Fukudome (2-for-4 with a triple, a run scored and a walk) walked … Jordan Zimmermann’s first, and only, free pass of the night (for some reason the impressive young right hander who was mowing the Cubs down threw a breaking ball on the 3-2 pitch to Fukudome).
Ryan Theriot then tripled off the wall in right on a 3-2 offering from Zimmermann. Hill and Fukudome scored but Derrek Lee grounded out to third. Theriot broke with contact and was an easy out at the plate. Aramis Ramirez grounded out to short to end the inning.
The Cubs took the lead for good in the sixth. Derrek Lee ripped a 2-2 pitch from Zimmermann to left. Adam Dunn was two steps shy of catching the ball and it bounced over the wall. With a slight shift on for Aramis Ramirez, he scorched a ball up the middle … and under Willie Harris’ glove. The error put runners on first and third for Milton Bradley with the Cubs down 4-2.
Milton Bradley struck out on three pitches, his third of the night and broke the bat over his knee. Bradley and Alfonso Soriano combined for six of the Nationals 10 strikeouts.
Alfonso Soriano then launched the first pitch from Jordan Zimmermann over the wall in right center. His three-run shot gave the Cubs the lead and ended up being the game-winner. Soriano’s 15th longball of the season ended a streak of 120 at bats without a homer, the second longest drought of his career.
The Cubs did just enough to beat the Nationals for the third game in a row. While it is “just the Nationals” the Cubs are playing with a little more confidence than they have on the road this season. Saturday night was a true team win, despite the fact all six runs were scored on three hits.
Kevin Hart will be recalled from Triple-A Iowa on Sunday to start the finale on Sunday against Garrett Mock.