WASHINGTON -- Aramis Ramirez's home run and sloppy defense in the top of the eighth inning helped the Cubs defeat the Nationals, 6-3, in front of 36,585 at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium on Friday night.
The Nationals have lost three consecutive games to drop to 18-17.
The game was tied at 2 in the eighth when Chicago tallied four runs off relievers Luis Ayala and Chad Cordero. Ramirez, who led off the inning, swung at Ayala's 2-2 pitch and hit his seventh home run of the season.
"You ask the guy to come in and get three outs, and [Ayala] didn't do that." manager Frank Robinson said. "You have Ramirez 2-2 and you throw a fastball right down the middle of the plate, you are not looking to have much success."
After the Cubs put runners on first and third with one out, the Nationals had a mental lapse defensively.
With Jerry Hairston at the plate and Cordero on the mound, Hairston missed the sign on a squeeze play and Jeromy Burnitz was caught in a rundown. But catcher Gary Bennett dropped the throw from third baseman Vinny Castilla and Burnitz scored to make it a 4-2 game.
"I just missed it," Bennett said. "There's no other way to put it. I made a mistake and it hurt us. There's no excuse for that. It cost us big time."
It was the first inherited runner that Cordero allowed to score in his career. Prior to the game, he had kept 25 inherited runners from scoring in his first 96 outings.
"The streak doesn't really matter right now," Cordero said.
But things got worse for the Nationals. After Hairston walked to put runners on first and second, Todd Hollandsworth struck out. But Corey Patterson hit a slow roller between the pitcher's mound and first base. Cordero grabbed the ball with his glove and threw it away, allowing Jason Dubois and Hairston to score.
"That's a ball I should have had. I should have called [first baseman Nick Johnson] off," Cordero said. "He probably didn't know if he should stay on the bag or come get the ball. I didn't say anything, so I should have went straight to the bag. It was all my fault."
The Nationals battled back in the bottom of the ninth, but fell a little short. With Mike Remlinger on the mound, pinch-hitter Tony Blanco drove in Bennett with a double down the left-field line. Two batters later, the Nationals had the bases loaded with Todd Wellemeyer on the mound and Jose Guillen as the go-ahead run at the plate.
Jose Guillen / RF
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
With his mother in the stands, Guillen was confident he was going to hit a game-winning grand slam. On a 2-0 pitch, however, Guillen hit the ball to deep right field, but Burnitz caught the ball in front of the wall for the last out of the game.
"That was the best at-bat I had all year," Guillen said. "I was really locked in. I look up and I see my mom in the stands. I told my teammates I was going to hit the ball out of the ballpark. I don't think I hit it enough, but I thought I hit it good enough to go out of the ballpark. You have to remember, this is a big ballpark and it was kind of cold."
Ayala took his second loss of the season, while reliever Will Ohman won his first game since Aug. 22, 2000.
Esteban Loaiza started for the Nationals and had another solid outing. He lasted seven innings and gave up two runs on six hits. Loaiza didn't figure in the decision for the fifth time this season. While he is not frustrated that he has only one victory, Loaiza said wins are what count when it comes to looking for a Major League job.
"I'm not frustrated. I'm throwing well, and everybody knows what I'm doing," Loaiza said. "But at the end of the year, it's how many wins I have under my belt if I want to get a job the following year. Hopefully things will change around and the team will get the wins."
Esteban Loaiza / P
Weight: 215 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R