WASHINGTON (AP)—Chicago second baseman Mike Fontenot made a small change that paid big dividends Thursday night.
Fontenot broke out of an 0-for-16 skid with three hits, including the tie-breaking single in the seventh inning, and former National Daryle Ward added two hits and two RBIs to lead the Cubs to a 4-2 victory over Washington.
“I’ve been a little passive at times,” Fontenot said. “Today, I was a little more aggressive. I haven’t had a hit in a couple of games, but I still felt pretty good at the plate.”
Fontenot, called up from Triple-A Iowa on June 9, has hit in 20 of his 24 games. He was the runner-up in the National League’s Rookie of the Month voting after a hitting a league-best .397 in June.
He went 3-for-5 Thursday, improving his average to .365.
Ward played 78 games with Washington last year before being traded to Atlanta on Aug. 31. He went 2-for-4 and loved getting a chance to go against his old team.
“They’re a great group of guys,” Ward said. “I had fun when I played there. But when you’re on the other side, you have a little bit of an agenda. I was able to go out and swing the bat the way I wanted to.”
Chicago manager Lou Piniella was happy that players like Fontenot, Ward and Jacque Jones gave the offense a boost as the Cubs won for the 11th time in 13 games and for the third time in this four-game series. They are a major league-best 21-10 since June 3.
Fontenot has been with the team for less than a month while Jones hadn’t started since June 20, and Ward comes off the bench to spell Derrek Lee .
“We were able to rest some guys and, at the same time, we got good production from the people we inserted in there,” Piniella said.
The Nationals have lost eight of 10.
After Fontenot led off the sixth inning with a single, Ward doubled to left-center for a 2-0 lead.
Dmitri Young then sparked Washington’s two-run rally in the sixth. Ryan Zimmerman started the inning with an infield single and he scored when Young lined a triple to right field. Austin Kearns then drove in Young to tie the game with a sacrifice fly to right field off starter Sean Marshall.
Pinch-hitter Angel Pagan and Alfonso Soriano had consecutive one-out singles off Luis Ayala (0-1) in the Cubs’ seventh. Fontenot then lined a single to center to score Pagan for a 3-2 lead and Ward followed with a sacrifice fly to deep center. Ayala gave up two runs and three hits in his only inning.
Marshall allowed two runs and five hits in 5 1-3 innings. Bergmann also went 5 1-3 innings, giving up two runs and six hits.
The Nationals got seven hits but went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight.
“It’s going to turn around for us,” Young said. “As a young team, this is what you’ve got to go through to find success. You’ve got to have failures.”
President Bush attended his fourth game at RFK Stadium since the Nationals moved from Montreal. … Washington has lost 15 of its last 22 home games. … The Cubs have won four consecutive series. … The Cubs called up RHP Sean Gallagher from Triple-A Iowa on Thursday. RHP Bill Petrick was optioned to Iowa.