for this game

Nationals rally late to sneak past Cubs

Apr 5, 2012 - 11:59 PM Chicago, IL (Sports Network) - Ian Desmond went 3-for-5 and knocked in the go- ahead run in the ninth inning, as the Washington Nationals opened the season with a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

Jayson Werth walked with the bases loaded in the eighth to tie the game. The Nationals then added another run in the ninth off Carlos Marmol (0-1). With two outs, Chad Tracy recorded the first extra-base hit of the game with a double off the wall in right. Desmond followed with an RBI single to right to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.

Former Phillies closer Brad Lidge came on in the home ninth. Ian Stewart hit a one-out triple off the wall in right, but was thrown out at the plate when Jeff Baker hit a grounder to third. Marlon Byrd struck out looking to end the game, giving Lidge his first save in a Nationals uniform.

Stephen Strasburg gave up one run on five hits in a seven-inning start for the Nationals, whose 80-81 finish last season was their best since posting an 81-81 campaign back in 2005, the franchise's first in Washington after relocating from Montreal. Tyler Clippard (1-0) pitched a scoreless eighth to pick up the win.

"It was just awesome getting a chance to pitch in Wrigley Field on Opening Day," Strasburg said. "It's just a lot of fun going out there being in somewhat of a hostile crowd. At the same time, the fans know the game. Just think about all the Hall of Famers who played here. It's an honor."

Byrd drove in the lone run for the Cubs, who made headlines in the offseason by naming former Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein president of baseball operations. Epstein brought in one of his main soldiers in Boston in Jed Hoyer to be the Cubs' GM.

Epstein earned everlasting fame as the man who put together World Series championship teams in 2004 and 2007 after the Red Sox had not won a title since 1918. The Cubs haven't won a world title since 1908.

In addition to Epstein and Hoyer, Chicago named Dale Sveum as its new manager. The Cubs went 71-91 last season.

Ryan Dempster allowed one run on two hits in 7 2/3 frames. He struck out 10 and walked three. Dempster was just 10-14 last season to go along with a 4.80 ERA.

"He was incredible," Sveum said of Dempster. "His command of his fastball, his split, his cutter, his slider, everything was tremendous. I know he was ready to prove everybody wrong about last year and getting the Opening Day start as well, and he did a good job."

Washington had a chance to get on the board in the first inning. Desmond started the game with a single and moved to second on Danny Espinosa's walk. The runners moved up a base when Ryan Zimmerman flied out. But Dempster retired the next two batters to keep it scoreless.

The Nationals wasted a golden opportunity to score in the third. After loading the bases with one out, Adam LaRoche went down swinging and Werth flied out.

The Cubs made Washington pay in the fourth. Alfonso Soriano hit a one-out single to get things going. Stewart reached base on a throwing error by Wilson Ramos. Runners were on first and second after Soriano was caught stealing and Baker walked. Byrd came through with an RBI single down the left-field line to make it 1-0.

Pitching took over the game for the next few innings. Dempster was taken out of the game in the eighth with a runner on first and two outs. Kerry Wood came in from the bullpen and walked Zimmerman and LaRoche to load the bases. Werth also worked a walk to bring in the tying run.

Game Notes

Strasburg spent most of last year recovering from Tommy John surgery...The Nationals went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine, while the Cubs went 1-for-3 with RISP and left six men on.