WASHINGTON -- Chicago claimed a series against the Washington Nationals, a preseason World Series favorite by some, and the visiting Cubs got a break in the ninth inning Sunday to win 2-1.
Alfonso Soriano stole third and came in to score on a throwing error by Washington catcher Kurt Suzuki in the top of the ninth for the winning run. Suzuki said his throw to third hit the bat of Welington Castillo, which does not count as batter interference.
Rafael Soriano (0-1), the Washington closer, came on to start the top of the ninth with the scored tied 1-1 and gave up a leadoff single by Alfonso Soriano. Julio Borbon pinch-hit for the Cubs and singled to center before Ryan Sweeney fanned for the first out.
With Castillo at the plate, the runners took off on a double steal and the throw by Suzuki was not even close to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman as Alfonso Soriano came in to score as the ball rolled into foul territory down the left-field line.
"It hit the bat" of Castillo, Suzuki said of his throw on the double steal. "I have never had anything like that. It was a freak thing."
Castillo said, "I just stand there and I feel the ball hitting my bat. I didn't move because if I move then it's interference. I don't know what happened."
Alfonso Soriano said, "When I see the ball, I was surprised because Suzuki is a great catcher. I wanted to make sure I was safe at third. It was a good play for us."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Castillo did the right thing by standing still on the double steal.
"That's what you have to do, make the catcher get around you," he said. "It sounded like the helmet (was hit and not the bat) from the dugout."
Kevin Gregg came on to pitch in the last of the ninth for the Cubs. He fanned Suzuki looking for the second out on a pitch on the outside corner. Suzuki was ejected for arguing the call by home plate umpire John Tumpane. Gregg then got the final out for his sixth save as he fanned Roger Bernadina.
"You can't argue much about that," Suzuki said of his ejection. "I did what I did. In a big game, I have my emotions running. I felt it was a ball."
Washington starter Gio Gonzalez allowed two hits and no runs in seven innings before he was lifted for pinch-hitter Chad Tracy in the last of the seventh. Gonzalez had six strikeouts with three walks and threw 86 pitches.
So why did manager Davey Johnson take out Gonzalez?
"I am going to try and add on" runs, Johnson said. "My bullpen was rested. I have all the confidence in the world in my bullpen. Chalk it up to me. It didn't work out."
The Nationals turned the game over in the eighth to reliever Drew Storen, who gave up a two-out RBI single to Starlin Castro to tie the score at 1.
Scott Feldman, the Cubs' starter, allowed one run and five hits in six innings before Kyuji Fujikawa came on to pitch a scoreless seventh.
James Russell (1-0) pitched the eighth for the Cubs and retired Ian Desmond on a long fly to Sweeney in right to end a scoreless inning.
The Cubs (15-22) won the series two games to one and the Nationals (20-17) lost for just the fourth time in 11 games.
"They have great pitching. They have some guys that can swing the bat. We don't take anybody lightly. That is a good team over there," Suzuki said.
Zimmerman, who made two errors Saturday, had an RBI double in the bottom of the first to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead.
Gonzalez retired the first 15 batters before Dioner Navarro beat out an infield single in the hole at short to lead off the sixth.
Gonzalez went at least seven innings in just one of his previous seven starts. In his last outing against the Cubs, he pitched seven scoreless innings for a win on Sept. 5 in Washington.
NOTES: Washington outfielder Bryce Harper, who missed the past two games with an ingrown toenail problem, started in left and batted third. ... Washington begins a West Coast trip Monday at the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cubs return home to play Colorado. ... X-rays were negative on Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena's pinky finger after he slid into third base on Saturday. He was not in the starting lineup. He started at third on Saturday but came out in the fifth inning. ... Feldman, who pitched for Texas last year, has an ERA of 2.53. He had a decision in each of his first six starts.