Nationals 5, Cubs 4, 12 innings
Brian Schneider hit a solo homer in the 12th inning, and the Nationals overcame Cordero’s first blown save in more than two months to complete a three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs with a 5-4 victory Sunday.
The Nationals have won six straight to reach 50 wins faster than any season in franchise history. It was the first three-game sweep at Wrigley Field for the club since the Montreal Expos did it June 3-5, 1994.
Cordero’s blown save was one of two by in the late innings by Washington pitchers, who also could not hold a two-run lead in the 11th.
“Nobody gets down. The only cry was ‘Let’s pick Chief up,”’ said Nationals manager Frank Robinson, referring to Cordero.
“You’ve got to give credit to our team,” Schneider said. “Chad gave up the save but he’s picked us up all year long, so it was our turn to pick him up.”
Washington led 2-0 in the ninth before Aramis Ramirez hit his 18th homer, a two-run shot off Cordero that ended the closer’s streak of 26 consecutive saves. It was Cordero’s first blown save since April 21 at Atlanta, and third of the season.
“It was a little weird, but it was bound to happen sometime. It’s better that it happens now rather than later,” Cordero said.
The Cubs have lost four straight games.
Carlos Baerga singled off Glendon Rusch to open the 11th. Schneider followed with what appeared to be a double-play grounder to second baseman Todd Walker, but Walker threw the ball out of the reach of shortstop Neifi Perez, putting Baerga and Schneider on second.
After a botched squeeze attempt with two strikes by Jamey Carroll, Rusch walked pinch-hitter Wil Cordero to load the bases with one out. Wilkerson followed with a two-run double on a 3-1 count to deep center, giving the Nationals a 4-2 lead.
“You have to give them a little bit of credit for continuing to pound on us,” Walker said. “They did all the things right this series.”
Jerry Hairston led off the bottom of the 11th with a homer off Hector Carrasco. Carrasco then got two consecutive outs, but allowed back-to-back singles to Jeromy Burnitz and Ramirez to put runners at the corners.
Joey Eischen (2-0) came in and allowed a broken-bat double to Todd Hollandsworth, scoring Burnitz to tie the game at 4. Eischen also pitched the 12th for his first win since returning from a broken right wrist that landed him on the 60-day disabled list.
“We held together as a team and stuck with it,” Robinson said. “We won a tough game on the road. That should give you an indication of what this team is all about.”
Major league batting leader Derrek Lee’s only hit was a lined single off of Nationals starter Ryan Drese’s right foot in the seventh. Drese met with trainers but stayed in the game for the rest of the inning before Luis Ayala replaced him to start the eighth.
“We did get some big hits, but they got more. They got the better of us,” Lee said.
Drese pitched seven scoreless innings, only allowing four hits.
Claimed off waivers from Texas on June 10, Drese allowed a leadoff single to Jerry Hairston in the first inning and then retired 13 straight. Drese struck out one and walked none while throwing only 89 pitches in seven innings.
Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano pitched seven innings, allowing two runs and six hits. He struck out seven and walked three.
The Cubs honored soccer star Mia Hamm before the game. Hamm threw out the ceremonial first pitch to her husband, Nomar Garciaparra. Garciaparra is on the 60-day disabled list while recovering from surgery to repair a ruptured tendon in his left groin. Hamm also was the guest singer for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” … Hairston played in place of Corey Patterson in center. Patterson is in a 2-for-20 slump and Cubs manager Dusty Baker indicated that he will probably give Patterson another day off on Monday at Atlanta. … The Nationals placed Nick Johnson on the 15-day disabled list after the game and promoted Matt Cepicky from Triple-A New Orleans.