|Washington Nationals' Adam LaRoche hits a two-run home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Chicago, Saturday, April 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)|
Nationals rally again, beat Cubs 7-4
CHICAGO—The Washington Nationals are pulling out dramatic wins. They wouldn't mind a breather, though.
Adam LaRoche homered and matched a career-high with four hits, and the Nationals again rallied late against Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol, scoring five runs in the eighth to beat the Chicago Cubs 7-4 on Saturday.
"We don't want to be in that position every single game," said Danny Espinosa, who homered in the eighth. "We want to fight, try to jump out early and hopefully get the lead. It's nice to know that we have the ability to come back, we don't die, we continue to fight."
LaRoche drove a two-run shot off Matt Garza in the fourth. The Cubs chased Gio Gonzalez with three in the bottom half to go up 4-2. But Washington sent up 11 batters in the eighth and hammered Wood (0-1) and Marmol again after they faltered in a 2-1 loss on Thursday.
Danny Espinosa started the winning rally with a two-out solo homer to left in the eighth on the 10th pitch he saw from Wood, who walked three straight to force in the tying run in the opener.
Marmol came on after back-to-back singles by Ryan Zimmerman and LaRoche but fared no better after taking the loss on Thursday. He immediately walked Jayson Werth to load the bases before giving up a two-run single to Chad Tracy, putting Washington up 5-4. Roger Bernardina then doubled in Werth, and Marmol left to loud boos after Wilson Ramos walked.
Shawn Camp then gave up an RBI infield single to Steve Lombardozzi, who led off the inning with a ground out, before retiring Ian Desmond on a fly to right to end the inning.
Ryan Mattheus (1-0) got the win. Henry Rodriguez struck out three in the ninth, and four relievers combined to shut out the Cubs over the final 5 1-3 innings after Gonzalez struggled.
An All-Star and 16-game winner last season, he gave up four runs, seven hits and three walks in 3 2-3 innings.
"I was in the strike zone," Gonzalez said. "I was making these guys swing the bat. If I could go back, I wouldn't change a thing I did today."
Matt Garza pitched five-hit ball over six innings, but Wood and Marmol wasted another solid start after Ryan Dempster shut down Washington in the opener.
"It's been two games," Marmol said. "You can't be frustrated."
While Marmol asked for patience, Garza defended his teammates.
"Those two guys have done it before, and they know tomorrow's another day," Garza said.
One thing that did bother him was LaRoche's homer halfway up the right-field foul pole to give the Nationals a 2-1 lead, and Garza vented in the dugout between innings. He was angry at himself for missing his spot with that pitch.
LaRoche's big day certainly was a good sign for the Nationals, considering he hit just .172 with three homers in 43 games last year before undergoing season-ending surgery on his left shoulder after signing with Washington. How well he rebounds could go a long way toward determining if this team makes the playoffs.
The Nationals believe they have enough pitching, but the offense is a bit of a question mark.
"One of those days where a lot of things went right for us," LaRoche said. "We fought hard and there was never a point in the game where we thought we were thinking 'we have to do it right now.' We were relaxed and knew we would get it going eventually."
NOTES: 1B Bryan LaHair, who pinch hit for Garza, was out of the lineup for the second straight game because of a minor back issue. He is expected to start on Sunday. Jeff Baker got the nod at first again in his place. ... The Cubs selected veteran right-hander Rodrigo Lopez's contract from Triple-A Iowa and outrighted infielder Luis Valbuena to the minor league club. ... Nationals 1B-OF Michael Morse traveled to New York Saturday for back treatment and is expected to return to Double-A Harrisburg to finish his rehab. Morse is eligible to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on April 10 while the Nationals are visiting the New York Mets. ... Jordan Zimmermann starts Sunday for Washington, with Jeff Samardzija pitching for the Cubs. Zimmermann was 8-11 with a 3.18 ERA in 26 starts in his first year back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow before getting shut down. This will be the sixth career start for Samardzija after spending four seasons in the bullpen.