Cubs Gut One Out Against the Nats – Cubs 4 Nationals 3

Game One Hundred Eighteen – Cubs 4 Nationals 3
WP – Ryan Dempster (10-8) LP – Jordan Zimmermann (7-10) Save – Carlos Marmol (26)

wflag.jpgIt wasn’t pretty but Q’s Cubs won a game for the second day in a row … and in the process they posted their third straight series victory for the first time this season. The Cubs have won nine of the last 11.

The Cubs hit two more home runs in Thursday’s makeup and the back-to-back jacks by Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena in the seventh ended up being the difference in the game. The Cubs have hit 21 longballs over the last nine games.

Jordan Zimmermann pretty much held the Cubs in check over the first 6 2/3 innings of the game. The Cubs managed only one run off Zimmermann until the seventh. Alfonso Soriano (1-for-4 with a triple and a RBI) tripled off Jayson Werth’s glove in the fourth and drove in Marlon Byrd (1-for-4 with a run scored). Soriano’s first triple of the season tied the game at one.

Reed Johnson (3-for-4 with a run scored) had another huge game. Johnson finished the two games against the Nationals 7-for-8 with a home run, a RBI and two runs scored … and it was a two-out single by Johnson in the seventh that set the stage for Aramis Ramirez (2-for-4 with a home run, a double and two RBI) and Carlos Pena (1-for-4 with a home run).

Ryan Dempster put together a very good outing after a shaky start. Dempster made only one mistake and it ended up on Waveland (a solo homer by Ryan Zimmerman in the first inning). Dempster ran up his pitch count early (71 in first four innings) but a 10-pitch fifth inning and Koyie Hill cutting down Danny Espinosa twice at second base with Ryan Zimmerman at the plate (both times), helped him complete seven innings of work.

Dempster allowed one run on three hits with two walks and six strikeouts on 116 pitches (72 for strikes) and more than earned his 10th victory of the year.

Jeff Samardzija was credited with an earned run in the eighth after Sean Marshall replaced him and could not record an out (two hits and an inherited runner scored).

Kerry Wood bailed out both of his bullpen mates by striking out Danny Espinosa and Ryan Zimmerman with two on to end the eighth. The last eight outs Wood has recorded have been strikeouts … Wood tied a record for a Cubs reliever with eight straight strikeouts since the mound was lowered in 1969. Juan Cruz (2003) and Kyle Farnsworth (2001) are the other two Cubs to accomplish the feat.

Carlos Marmol survived the ninth and picked up his 26th save. Marmol loaded the bases with no outs (two walks and an infield) single before striking out Ian Desmond. After an infield single by Wilson Ramos made it a 4-3 game, Marmol struck out Brian Bixler swinging. Reed Johnson caught the 27th out in deep left center to end the game. Rick Ankiel gave the ball a ride but came up short.

Starlin Castro’s ten-game hitting streak came to an end on Thursday afternoon (0-for-4).

The Cubs finished their season series against the Nationals with a 3-4 record. Everyone of the games against the Nationals were very close … five of the games were decided by a single run and the difference in the other two was just two runs.

With Thursday’s win, the Cubs finished the six-game homestand with a 4-2 record and improved to 51-67 on the year … 16 games below .500.

Ryan Dempster began his day by fielding the first two balls hit. Rick Ankiel lined back to Dempster and Espinosa tapped back to the mound. Ryan Zimmerman then gave the Nats a 1-0 lead with a towering home run that ended up on Waveland. Dempster jumped ahead of Michael Morse 1-2 before eventually walking him with two outs. Dempster struck out Jayson Werth swinging to end the inning … the first of three strikeouts for Werth against Dempster on the afternoon.

Aramis Ramirez doubled with two outs in the first but was stranded when Carlos Pena popped out to short.

Dempster retired the Nationals in order in the second … and after two, Dempster had thrown 39 pitches, 22 for strikes.

The Cubs did nothing against Jordan Zimmermann in the bottom of the second.

Ryan Dempster made quick work of Zimmermann and Ankiel to start the third but issued a walk to Danny Espinosa. With the red-hot Ryan Zimmerman at the plate, Espinosa took off for second on a 0-1 pitch and Hill threw him out to end the inning.

Koyie Hill led off the bottom of the third with a single to right. Dempster sacrificed him to second. After Castro flied out to right, Hill advanced to third on Reed Johnson’s first hit of the game … a single to left. Aramis Ramirez popped out to second to end the inning.

The Nationals did nothing against Dempster in the fourth.

The Cubs tied the game in the bottom of the fourth. Carlos Pena lined out to Werth to start the inning. Marlon Byrd singled to center and scored all the way from first on a triple by Alfonso Soriano. Soriano ripped Zimmermann’s first pitch into right center. Werth tried to make a diving catch but the ball hit off his glove and rolled to the wall. By the time Rick Ankiel could get to it, Byrd had scored.

With the go ahead run on third, Darwin Barney popped out to second. Hill was intentionally walked and Dempster struck out to end the inning.

At the end of four, the game was tied at one.

Dempster needed a quick inning in the fifth and got it. Dempster worked around a two-out single by Wilson Ramos and threw just 10 pitches.

Reed Johnson reached on a single to left with one out in the fifth … but Jordan Zimmermann struck out Ramirez and Pena (both swinging) to end the inning.

Ryan Dempster ended up facing the minimum in the top of the sixth after giving up his third hit of the game. Espinosa singled to center with one out but tried to steal second again with Ryan Zimmerman at the plate. Hill threw out Espinosa and Dempster struck out Zimmerman swinging on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.

Darwin Barney worked a two-out walk in the bottom of the sixth … but that was all and the game went to the seventh all tied up.

Ryan Dempster hit Michael Morse on a 0-2 pitch to start the seventh. Morse had to leave the game and Jonny Gomes took his place on the bases (Gomes stayed in the game in left and Laynce Nix moved to first). Jayson Werth struck out swinging for the first out of the inning … and Laynce Nix hit into a 3-6 double play to end the inning.

Tony Campana hit for Dempster after Glenn Beckert sang the stretch. Both Campana and Castro struck out to start the inning.

Reed Johnson went with a 0-2 pitch and ripped the ball into right field. Johnson trotted around the bases on Aramis Ramirez’s 21st homer of the season. Ramirez’s two-run shot broke up the 1-1 tie and gave the Cubs a 3-1 lead.

Carlos Pena followed and hit a tape measure shot down the right field line … the only doubt was fair or foul. The ball stayed fair and Pena’s 22nd homer of the year ended up on Sheffield Avenue. The first time a ball ended up on Sheffield this season … and just like that the Cubs had a 4-1 lead.

Davey Johnson made the slow walk and replaced Zimmermann with Ryan Mattheus. Marlon Byrd grounded out to third to end the inning.

Ian Desmond reached on a hustle-double and a misplayed ball by Soriano to start the eighth. Jeff Samardzija struck out Wilson Ramos after a wild pitch had advanced Desmond to third.

After Alex Cora was announced, Quade went to his pen for Sean Marshall. Johnson countered with Brian Bixler and the former Pirate drove in the Nationals’ second run with an infield single to short. Rick Ankiel ripped a single into right. With runners on first and second and the Cubs up 4-2, Quade went back to his pen for Kerry Wood.

Kerry Wood struck out Espinosa and Zimmerman to end the eighth.

The Cubs were not able to tack on against Todd Coffey in the bottom of the eighth.

Carlos Marmol issued a leadoff walk to Jonny Gomes in the ninth. Jayson Werth hit a smash off Ramirez’s glove that put runners on first and second with no outs. Laynce Nix walked on five pitches to load the bases.

Ian Desmond struck out swinging for the first out of the ninth.

Wilson Ramos hit a 2-2 pitch off the plate that took a high bounce. Ramirez fielded the ball but had no play. Gomes scored and it was 4-3 Cubs with one out and the bases loaded in the ninth.

Brian Bixler struck out swinging to the second out … and Rick Ankiel hit a towering fly to left center that Reed Johnson caught to end the game.

Three series victories in a row …

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

The Cubs begin a two-city, six-game road trip with the first of three in Atlanta on Friday night. Carlos Zambrano against Mike Minor in the opener.

Quote of the Day

"Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points." – Knute Rockne