for this game

Nationals squeeze Cubs for another tight victory

Jul 7, 2011 - 5:47 AM Washington, DC (Sports Network) - The first time Michael Morse broke for home, he came perilously close to Wilson Ramos' full-on swing.

No matter. The Nationals went ahead with the squeeze anyway, and Morse scored on Ramos' perfect bunt two pitches later, lifting the Nationals to a 5-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

Every other run in Wednesday's game was scored on a two-run homer, but the seventh-inning play allowed Washington to come away with another narrow victory.

The Nationals have won all three games so far in this series by one run, and each of their last 10 victories has come by either one run or in extra innings.

Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa homered for the Nationals, while Zimmerman finished with three hits.

Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena had the Cubs' homers, but Chicago lost for the fifth time in six games.

Wednesday's contest came down to the close play in the seventh inning, when Morse led off with a double to left and moved to third on Jayson Werth's fly ball to right.

Ramos came up next and, as Morse was sprinting toward home, took a big swing at the first pitch. Luckily for Morse, Ramos fouled it off behind him and not up the third base line. Morse was about 20 feet away from the batter's box and braced himself once he realized Ramos wasn't bunting.

The apparent signal mix-up didn't deter the Nationals from trying the play again. Ramos took a ball from Cubs reliever Kerry Wood (1-4) before laying down a high-bouncing bunt back toward the mound. Morse scored before Wood even got a glove on the ball, giving the Nationals the lead.

"It's the first time I've ever squeezed in the big leagues," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "The way we've been going I thought it may be a good time. We missed the first one, but came back and it worked, so I'm batting a thousand -- but don't look for it often."

Washington's bullpen finished the game. After Ryan Mattheus (2-0) had thrown a scoreless seventh, Henry Rodriguez struck out three in the eighth and Drew Storen worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 22nd save.

The Nationals' decisive small-ball play came after the teams traded displays of power.

Espinosa hit his 16th blast of the season in the first inning, after Roger Bernadina singled and stole second. Cubs starter Randy Wells worked the rookie second baseman away, but hung a 2-1 changeup that caught the outer half of the plate, and Espinosa pulled it over the right field fence.

However, Geovany Soto singled leading off the next inning to bring up Pena. Tom Gorzelanny threw an 0-1 fastball down and in to the left-hander, who ripped it into the seats in right-center field.

Washington re-claimed the lead in the fifth, when Espinosa led off with a walk and Zimmerman followed by clubbing a low pitch to left.

Laynce Nix and Morse then hit consecutive singles to chase Wells after 89 pitches and set up a chance to tack on more runs.

"Wells had a high pitch count. It seems like he gets in that 80 to 95-pitch range," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "After a tough first inning he settled down and pitched okay, but couldn't get us through that."

Hard-throwing reliever Chris Carpenter came in and threw a wild pitch to allow the runners to advance to scoring position, but got out of the jam.

He retired Werth on a pop-up to shallow center, struck out Ramos and walked Ian Desmond to bring up Gorzelanny. The Nationals starter did an admirable job of staying in the at-bat, fouling off several 98 m.p.h. fastballs.

But Gorzelanny whiffed on the ninth pitch of the at-bat to keep it a 4-2 game, and the Cubs pulled even again in the sixth.

Starlin Castro led off with a double after Werth appeared to mid-judge the ball in right, and Ramirez crushed Gorzelanny's first pitch well over the center field fence.

Game Notes

Washington went 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position...Pena's homer was his 18th of the season and gave him his 600th career run scored...The Cubs hadn't allowed a home run in four games...Morse, who had been ailing from a bruised left forearm, started for the first time since July 2...Espinosa has 50 RBI this season.