Game Ninety – Cubs 11 Nationals 3
WP – Kevin Hart (1-1) LP – Garrett Mock (0-3) Save – None
The Cubs took advantage of the schedule makers and began the second half of the season with a four-game sweep of the Washington Nationals … the Cubs first series sweep on the road against the Expos/Nationals organization since 1977. The offense was the difference on Sunday as they scored 11 runs scored, all in the first six innings, on 16 hits. The Cubs equaled a season-high in runs scored set against the Padres on May 14 and tied a season-high hits … both times in Houston, first time on April 8 then again on June 9.
For the second day in a row Alfonso Soriano hit the game winner. After going nearly six weeks between longballs, Soriano gave the Cubs the lead for good with a two-run homer in the fourth inning. Soriano’s 16th of the year started the Cubs’ seven run fourth inning.
The Cubs took advantage of the Nationals horrible defense. An error by Alberto Gonzalez allowed Jake Fox to reach ahead of Soriano’s home run. Mike Fontenot (3-for-5 with a double, a run scored and a RBI) re-started the inning with a single to center. Koyie Hill walked and Kevin Hart knocked his first career big league hit, a single to center that plated Mike Fontenot with the Cubs fourth run.
Kosuke Fukudome continued to be productive in the leadoff spot. Fukudome reached base in four out of his six trips to the plate (2-for-4 with a double, two walks, a run scored and a RBI) and drove in the fifth run of the game with a single to center. Ryan Theriot followed with a sacrifice fly that plated Kevin Hart. Following the Nationals’ second error of the inning that allowed Fukudome to advance to second on Theriot’s sac fly, Derrek Lee singled to right, Fukudome scored and Micah Hoffpauir singled to right to continue the inning.
Jake Fox, who had a huge day at the plate, singled in Derrek Lee for the Cubs seventh run of the inning … their biggest single inning output of the year. The Cubs scored seven times on seven hits in the fourth and sent 12 to the plate. The hits just kept on coming during the fourth inning.
Jake Fox added his fifth home run of the season in the sixth, a three-run shot off of Ron Villone … Fox’s first of the year off of a southpaw. Fox out-hit his mistakes at third base on Sunday afternoon. Fox finished the day 3-for-5 with a double, a home run, two runs scored and 4 RBI.
Kevin Hart was the benefactor of a huge day by the Cubs’ offense. Hart was not sharp and issued five more walks in five innings of work. While the Nationals plated two runs against him on five hits, a better team could have buried the Cubs on Sunday. Hart posted his third career Major League victory on an afternoon he had mediocre command.
Jeff Samardzija put together three solid innings in relief of Kevin Hart. The Shark gave up a run, a meaningless solo homer to Adam Dunn in the seventh, on two hits. Samardzija attacked hitters and struck out three on 41 pitches, 29 for strikes. Jeff Stevens pitched the ninth. He issued a two-out walk to Willie Harris and struggled with his command (13 pitches, five strikes) but was able to record the 27th out to end the game.
The Cubs improved to four games over .500 for the first time since May 20 with the win on Sunday … and Lou Piniella’s crew did what they had to do against the Nationals, sweep the four-game series. For a team with all of their problems on the road this season, Sunday’s win gave them their seventh victory in their last 10 games outside of Wrigley Field. The Cubs improved to 20-25 away from the Friendly Confines on a day it was apparent early on that the offense was going to have to score a bunch of runs.
Kevin Hart survived long enough to pick up the win but by no means should he be allowed to make another start. Hart has pitched against two sub-par offenses (Braves and Nationals). All of the walks he has issued will eventually catch up to him and cost the Cubs wins.
The Nationals put pressure on Hart in the first four innings and even with a big lead he could not throw strikes. Nyjer Morgan led off the first with a bunt single up the third base line. Morgan was caught stealing with Nick Johnson at the plate in a call that appeared to go the Cubs’ way. Johnson ended up walking and Hart was able to escape the first inning by retiring Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn.
After the offense gave Hart a 1-0 lead in the top of the second, Josh Willingham walked to start the bottom of the second. Josh Bard singled to right. Ronnie Belliard followed with a fly out to right center. Willingham tagged and advanced to third. Alberto Gonzalez tied the game with a sacrifice fly to center.
Nyjer Morgan led off the third with a single to left. With Nick Johnson at the plate, Morgan stole second and third. Kevin Hart walked Johnson on four pitches. Ryan Zimmerman gave the Nationals the lead with his third sacrifice fly of the series. Zimmerman’s fly out to center plated Morgan with Washington’s second run.
Adam Dunn followed with a single to left on a 3-2 pitch. Josh Willingham rapped into a 6-4-3 double play on Hart’s first pitch to end the inning. Willingham finished 0-for-the-series …
Following the Cubs’ big seven-run fourth inning, Ronnie Belliard reached on a one-out single to left. Alberto Gonzalez reached on a fielder’s choice grounder to Jake Fox. Fox bobbled the ball slightly and his throw to second was late. Cristian Guzman hit for Julian Tavarez and walked to load the bases … with the Cubs up by a score of 8-2.
Nyjer Morgan hit a grounder to Fox at third on a 0-1 pitch. Fox juggled the ball once again but made a strong throw to the plate to force Ronnie Belliard. With the bases loaded and two outs, Nick Johnson fouled out to Koyie Hill on a 0-2 pitch to end the inning. Hill made a basket catch over the railing just to left of the netting … it was a good play and changed the course of the inning. Lou Piniella had Jeff Samardzija warming in the pen.
Kevin Hart pitched around his fifth walk in fifth to end his day.
The Cubs received two serviceable outings from Kevin Hart. With Ryan Dempster out until at least the end of the month, the Cubs should look at other starters to fill Dempster’s spot.
The Cubs came out swinging against Garrett Mock. Kosuke Fukudome doubled to right to start the game but Derrek Lee checked his swing and grounded into a 5-4 double play that ended the first inning.
Micah Hoffpauir (3-for-5 with two runs scored) ripped a single into center to begin the second inning. After Jake Fox struck out, Alfonso Soriano doubled to right. Mike Fontenot followed with a bloop double down the left field line that if Adam Dunn had not been in left would have been an out. Hoffpauir scored, 1-0 Cubs.
Koyie Hill struck out for the second out with runners on second and third. Garrett Mock then struck out Kevin Hart to end the inning.
After facing the minimum in the third, Garrett Mock’s defense let him down to start the fourth. Micah Hoffpauir led off the inning with a fly out to left. Jake Fox hit what appeared to be a routine grounder to short. Alberto Gonzalez did not get his glove down and the ball rolled into left center. Alfonso Soriano stepped in and launched his 16th longball of the year into the stands in left on a 1-2 pitch. The Cubs took a 3-2 lead and never looked back.
Mike Fontenot followed with a single to center on a 0-2 pitch. After a wild pitch advanced Fontenot to second, Mock walked Koyie Hill. With runners on first and second with one out, Kevin Hart squared to bunt on a 1-0 offering, then pulled his bat back and singled into center … his first career big league hit and RBI. Fontenot scored.
Garrett Mock uncorked a wild pitch on the first offering to Kosuke Fukudome. With runners on second and third, Fukudome singled to center on a 2-0 pitch. Koyie Hill scored and Hart held at third.
Jim Riggleman brought in Julian Tavarez to face Ryan Theriot. Theriot came through with a sac fly to left center on a 2-0 pitch. Hart scored and Fukudome advanced to second when the ball got past Josh Bard. Derrek Lee followed with a single to right on a 0-1 pitch, Fukudome scored.
Following a single to right by Micah Hoffpauir that put runners on first and second, Jake Fox ripped the first pitch he saw into left center. Derrek Lee scored, 8-2 Cubs. Alfonso Soriano lined out to left to end the inning.
Ryan Theriot led off the sixth with a single to left on a 0-2 offering from Ron Villone. Derrek Lee struck out looking but Micah Hoffpauir singled to right. Jake Fox jumped on the first pitch again and hit a towering fly over the wall in left. Fox’s three run shot gave the Cubs an 11-2 lead.
While many expected the Cubs to take three of four from the Nationals out of the break, not many thought they would sweep the series. “It is just the Nationals” but the Cubs showed a lot of improvement in the little things over the last four games. The test to see where Lou Piniella’s crew is starts on Monday in Philadelphia.
Ted Lilly will open the three-game series on Monday night in Philadelphia against Rodrigo Lopez.