Another eighth-inning rally, another win for the Washington Nationals.
Adam LaRoche banged out four hits, including a two-run homer, and scored the go-ahead run in a five-run eighth inning to power the Nats to a 7-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs. Danny Espinosa added his first homer of the season for the Nationals (2-0), Chad Tracy had a big hit off the bench for the second straight game, and the Washington bullpen provided 5.1 scoreless innings of relief.
Craig Stammen held the Cubs in check for 2 1-3 innings after Gio Gonzalez was pulled in a three-run Chicago third, Ryan Mattheus (W, 1-0) pitched a perfect seventh for the win and Henry Rodriguez (S, 1) struck out three of the four batters he faced in the ninth for the save.
Gonzalez had six strikeouts in his first start for Washington, but allowed all four Chicago runs on seven hits and a walk in 3.2 innings. He was in trouble from the outset, allowing a run in the first inning when he uncorked a wild pitch with men on first and third. After LaRoche’s two-run shot in the top of the fourth gave the Nats a 2-1 lead, the Cubs chased Gonzalez in the bottom of the inning by scoring three more runs on Reed Johnson’s two-run triple and Joe Mather’s RBI single.
But the relief corps held the Cubs’ bats in check the rest of the way, and as they did in the opener, the Nats made their move against the Chicago bullpen, jumping on Kerry Wood (L, 0-1) for three runs on 3 hits in just two thirds of an inning. With two out, Espinosa got it started with a home run over the left field wall. Singles by Ryan Zimmerman and LaRoche ended Wood’s day, and Jayson Werth greeted Carlos Marmol with a walk to load the bases.
Tracy put the Nats ahead with his second hit in as many at-bats against Marmol, a single that scored Zimmerman and LaRoche. Roger Bernadina doubled in Werth to give the Nats a two-run lead, and after a Wilson Ramos walk, Steve Lombardozzi greeted Shawn Camp with an infield single that scored pinch-runner Brett Carroll, making it 7-4.
Clippard and Rodriguez each allowed a walk but otherwise avoided trouble to close it out.
Champ of the Game: LaRoche, who had a four-hit day with ahomer after going hitless on opening day.
For the Cubs, it was Johnson, who went 2-for-4 and drove in two runs.
Chump of the Game: Gonzalez, who could never find his rhythm, despite striking out six.
For the Cubs, Wood, again, allowed the Nats to get back in the game after a good starting performance by Garza.
Unsung Heroes: Stammen, who tossed 2.1 scoreless innings after the Cubs roughed up Gonzalez.
Next game: Saturday, vs. Chicago at Wrigley Field. Jordan Zimmermann vs. Jeff Samardzija. Game Time: 2:20 p.m.