WASHINGTON -- Who knew?
If we had known the way to restore Alfonso Soriano's power was to get him to play a game with a dislocated, taped-up right pinky...
Nah. None of us is THAT nasty. Right?
After hearing that Soriano might be out for an extended period of time after the injury he suffered diving back into first base on Thursday night, he was back in the lineup after missing only one game. And in the sixth inning of a game the Cubs once trailed 4-0 after only two innings, he launched a three-run homer to nearly dead center field, his first homer since June 7 and only his third in the last two months.
That got the overwhelmingly Cub-centric crowd on its feet roaring, and we all continued to do so for various reasons, finally cheering the last out of the Cubs' third win in a row over the Nationals, 6-5 on a gorgeous, low-humidity Saturday night.
Now, can I make one suggestion, Jim Hendry, in the nicest possible way? PLEASE GET RID OF AARON HEILMAN RIGHT NOW!! Heilman came in after Mike Fontenot's first home run since June 9 (hmmm... theme brewing here) extended the Cubs' lead to 6-4. He faced four batters; the first, Wil Nieves, slammed a screaming line drive that happened to be directly at Derrek Lee. Then he issued a walk, a single and another walk before Kevin Gregg had to be summoned for only his third more-than-one-inning appearance of the season. Gregg finished it off, but not before walking Adam Dunn to load the bases. There is, I think, a big difference between issuing a walk to Dunn, who is now leading the NL in walks with 73, and walking Ronnie Belliard, who has a .246 OBA and only eight free passes in 115 plate appearances (which is what Heilman did). Heilman is on a one-year, $1.625 million contract -- there's less than $800,000 left on the deal. The Cubs have already eaten far more than that in contracts released in 2009. When Kevin Hart is called up today, just DFA him. Seriously.
The game didn't start off as if it were going to be the Cubs' night. Randy Wells got hit hard, allowing three hits to the first four batters and trailing 2-0 at that point. Three more hits and another pair of runs put the Cubs in a 4-0 hold after two, but Wells gutted out five innings, settling down particularly after a contact play resulted in him tagging out Dunn trying to score on a grounder to Ryan Theriot in the third. By then, Theriot's two-run triple had cut the deficit in half. Kudos to Wells, who didn't have his best stuff last night but kept his team in the game.
Jordan Zimmermann was bringing 95+ heat in the early innings, striking out eight, but that fastball may have also been the reason Soriano was able to hit with some power even while injured. Zimmermann has talent -- so do a fair number of the Nats hitters -- but as is typical for a bad team, if you can get one little break, that makes it easy to make them fall apart. The Cubs got that just before Soriano's homer, when Willie Harris booted Aramis Ramirez's ground ball, putting two runners on base. Zimmermann did get Milton Bradley to strike out, but then Soriano brought all the Cubs fans to their feet cheering wildly with his blast.
This is how disorganized the Nats are: in the ninth inning, after Belliard had pinch-hit for pitcher Jason Bergmann, interim Nats manager Jim Riggleman sent Belliard to play 2B and Willie Harris to right field. Apparently, Dunn thought he was supposed to go to RF and Harris to LF, because that's where they ran out to. It took some frantic waving from the Nats dugout to move them to the proper positions.
Nice to meet several BCB readers last night, including BracketDobber, zevkalman and vacubsfan. I know some others have emailed me about stopping by today -- hope to say hi to you too. One more thing about Nats Park -- though the food selection is decent, there don't seem to be any vendors who sell food items (other than pretzels); all the roving vendors have appear to be drinks. That makes it difficult to eat if you also want to watch the game.
Finally, with the Cardinals losing to the D'backs last night, the deficit in the NL Central is cut to two games for the first time since July 6. Let's finish the sweep today.