Armas shuts down Cubs as Nats sweep

Armas shuts down Cubs as Nats finish sweep

WASHINGTON -- Left fielder Alfonso Soriano, right-hander Livan Hernandez and second baseman Jose Vidro get all the publicity when it comes to trade talks involving the Nationals. But right-hander Tony Armas Jr. also is on the trading block and, on Sunday, he showed that he could help a contending club during the pennant stretch as the Nationals defeated the Cubs, 7-1, in front of 30,851 fans.

With the victory, Washington swept its first three-game series since June 2-5 against the Brewers and is now 43-56 for the season.

If he doesn't throw a lot of pitches in the first few innings, that means Armas is going to go deep into the game. In the first two innings of Sunday's game, Armas threw 22 pitches and ended up throwing 98 pitches in seven innings. At one point during the game, he retired eight straight hitters. Armas gave up one run on three hits in the game.

"From the get-go in the bullpen, everything was [good]," Armas said.

It was Armas' first good outing since coming off the disabled list on July 17. In the past, he would have thrown at least 90 pitches by the fifth inning.

"It was a very good outing for him. He didn't look like he was laboring out there," manager Frank Robinson said. "[Throwing strikes] makes a big difference and getting the hitters in a swinging mode and getting some outs. The main thing was that he wasn't behind on a lot of hitters."

Armas is aware that he is on the trading block, but he's not concerned about being dealt. He has experience in the area, having been traded twice in his career. The Yankees traded him to Boston in 1997, while the Red Sox traded him later in the year in the famous Pedro Martinez deal.

"I've gone through this twice," Armas said. "I want to do my job every time I go out there. If I can stay healthy, I can do my job. That's the main thing. I don't think about getting traded. I go home and chill with my wife and that's it."

Armas received all the run support he'd need in the third inning, when Felipe Lopez singled to right field off Cubs starter Carlos Marmol to drive in Brian Schneider and Soriano.

After looking shaky in his first six road games as a National, Lopez, who came with outfielder Austin Kearns in the eight-player deal with the Reds on July 13, seems to be at home at RFK. He went 6-for-13 with three RBIs against the Cubs.

"I'm feeling comfortable at the plate," Lopez said. "It took me awhile to adjust to being traded, getting to know the guys and stuff. You are wearing a new uniform. Being home with the fans, it makes you feel a lot more at home and comfortable. All I [can do] is be myself."

In the fourth inning, Ryan Church hit a two-run homer that landed in the right-field upper deck. It was his first home run since April 29 against the Phillies. Church, who had spent most of the season in the Minor Leagues and was recalled to the Majors on Saturday, admitted that he was nervous and wanted to get his first hit since returning.

"I was real anxious. I was glad to get it out of the way. The last two at-bats, I was trying to do a little too much. My adrenalin was going. I was anxious to get something going again. I was just feeding off the crowd, and it was great. It was a good feeling.

In the same inning, Soriano hit his 31st home run of the season to make it a 5-0 game.

The Nationals scored their final two runs in the seventh inning when a ground ball hit by Marlon Anderson went under the glove of Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee to score Ryan Zimmerman and Nick Johnson.

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