Nationals go deep to down Cubs

Nationals go deep to down Cubs

CHICAGO -- Whenever the Nationals win a game these days, manager Frank Robinson calls it big, because the victories have been few and far between. Thursday's victory was, indeed, huge because the Nationals get to go home on a positive note.

The Nationals used the long ball, which helped them defeat the Cubs, 5-3, in front of 40,517 fans at Wrigley Field.

The victory snapped a two-game losing streak and improved Washington's record to 14-27.

Cubs starter Kerry Wood, who was making his season debut after shoulder surgery last August, was rusty, allowing the Nationals to take a 4-0 lead by the third inning.

In the second inning, Washington scored three runs. With one out, Ryan Zimmerman hit Wood's 1-2 pitch over the wall in left-center field to give the Nationals a 1-0 advantage. Three batters later, with Marlon Byrd on third base, Damian Jackson hit a two-run home run over the left-field wall.

In the top of the third, Alfonso Soriano led off by hitting his 13th homer of the season.

"We had some good swings against him," Robinson said of Wood. "I'm sure he'll say his location wasn't real good, but we put some runs on the board off him. He didn't have his curveball."

Cubs left-hander Will Ohman was on the mound in the top of the sixth inning when Marlon Anderson hit a leadoff home run.

Even though the Nationals hit for power, Robinson was not satisfied with his team's offense. He would like to see some singles and doubles mixed in the rally.

"I don't know if the offense got going. We got some offense today. We scored five runs, and all of them were driven in on home runs," Robinson said. "We didn't score another way. That's not real good. I want to see what I call offense put together."

Nationals starter Ramon Ortiz won his first game since Sept. 10, 2005, against the Pirates. Ortiz pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up three runs on eight hits. Ortiz was like a kid who just received a tremendous Christmas present.

"I feel very good. It's unbelievable," Ortiz said. "I was never worried about getting my first win. The thing is, we're happy. The team won. I received my first win as a National."

Ortiz was cruising through the first five innings, but he found himself in trouble in the sixth. With runners on first and second and no outs, Neifi Perez singled to center field to drive in Michael Barrett. Ronny Cedeno followed with a sacrifice fly that brought home Jacque Jones to make it a 5-2 game.

Robinson took Ortiz out of the game in favor of Jon Rauch, who gave up an RBI single to Aramis Ramirez.

Left-hander Mike Stanton entered the ballgame and induced Juan Pierre to hit into a double play to end the threat. Robinson thought it was the turning point of the game.

"It was pretty big," Stanton said. "In those situations, all you want to do is make quality pitches. I threw him a cutter away and Marlon [Anderson] did a great job in turning the double play. It worked out well for us."

"I was never worried about getting my first win. The thing is, we're happy. The team won. I received my first win as a National."
-- Ramon Ortiz

Nationals closer Chad Cordero made his first appearance since giving up a game-winning grand slam to Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur last Saturday. Cordero gave up a one-out double to Todd Walker. After Barrett flied out, sending Walker to third base, Cordero found himself nibbling around the plate and walked Jones, who represented the tying run.

Robinson then walked to the mound and asked Cordero the following question: "Are you the man for the job?"

Cordero answered, "Yes, I'll get him out right here."

Cordero felt it was the right question for Robinson to ask, especially after he had given up the home run to Francoeur and walked Jones.

"It might have seemed that I was pitching scared by nibbling [to Jones]. That's not the way I was pitching at all," Cordero said. "I just felt I wasn't getting the calls that the home plate umpire was calling before."

Chicago then helped Cordero's confidence by ending the game on a strange play. On a 1-0 pitch, Walker was running home and Perez attempted to bunt for a hit, but the ball went back to Cordero, who threw out Perez at first to end the game.

"I was very surprised. With two outs and Perez is the wining run? I think it shocked everybody. But if he wants to do it, go ahead," Cordero said. "I knew there were two outs. I just had to get the last out and the game was over. The runner on third didn't mean anything. Even if he scored, we are still up by one. It didn't even cross my mind to go home."

Cubs manager Dusty Baker felt it was worth the gamble to bunt the ball. The Cubs noticed that Zimmerman was deep at third base, so Perez attempted to bunt the ball down the third-base line, which didn't happen.

"If [Perez] gets that ball down anywhere but to the pitcher, he beats it out and we have [John] Mabry up next. That's what he was thinking. It's not a bad play, especially because the third baseman was way deep. If [Perez] gets that ball anywhere close to the line, he beats that out and we've got a run and we've got runners at first and second. It didn't work."

Perez said if he had to do it over again, he would try to make another but attempt.

"That's my game. I'm not a power hitter. [Bunting is] part of my game right there," Perez said.

The Nationals now go home to play nine games at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. The team had played 28 of its first 41 games on the road.

"We finally get to go home for a while," Anderson said. "We were in and out of Washington. Some of us didn't even unpack yet. This nine-game homestand is going to be big for us."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.