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Cubs Remember How To Win, Dismantle Nationals 9-4

If only the last three weeks had been played this way.

Last night, in a 9-4 win over the Nationals, the Cubs got timely hitting, good defense, and -- with the exception of Carlos Marmol, who I'll discuss later on -- outstanding pitching.

My intention here is not to get this recap bogged down in the same way that last night's post about Milton Bradley did, but I do think I need to say a couple of things about the situation. First: I will not tolerate racist remarks of any kind on this site. Bradley has accused some Cubs fans of making similar comments. I have no doubt that such comments are happening, and it is truly unfortunate. That has no place in baseball, or indeed in society in general. I hope it stops. I do think that in this case, Lou has the right idea:
Manager Lou Piniella said Cubs fans are "very supportive," and that he would prefer Bradley just ignore the critics. Thus far, Bradley has not heeded that advice.

"During the heat of the battle, it's not the easiest thing to do," Piniella said. "But if you can train yourself to do that, you're going to be way ahead of the game. You're going to enjoy the experience a lot more because some fans can test you a little bit.

"But, you know, if you don't pay attention to them, usually it quiets them down a lot easier than if you give them a reaction."

Wise advice, I would say. As Lou said, not easy to do, but necessary. You can continue the discussion of this topic here, but again, I remind you: no personal attacks, and please keep the tone civil.

Right now, Bradley, who had a tough road trip, has begun this homestand hot: he homered last night for the second straight game, and also drew a bases-loaded walk and scored in the Cubs' six-run eighth that put the game away. He is hitting .288/.409/.466 in August, a lot closer to the production Cubs fans thought they were getting when he was signed. I hope he keeps it up.

Rich Harden had a shaky first inning, loading the bases on a single, HBP and walk before he recorded an out. But only one Nationals run scored, and after that Harden settled down and gave up only four more singles and one other run in completing six solid innings. Angel Guzman and John Grabow each contributed a scoreless inning of relief, and -- shock of shocks -- Aaron Miles did something to actually pitch in to a run-scoring rally, executing a sacrifice bunt that advanced Koyie Hill, who had led off the seventh inning with a single, to second base with the score tied 2-2. Hill eventually scored the lead run on a bloop single by Ryan Theriot, and then the Cubs blew open the game in the eighth with six runs off three Nats relievers. Kudos also to Hill, who was 3-for-3 and really has to be the primary catcher now -- he's outhitting Geovany Soto by quite a bit.

While all this was going on a light rain began to fall, and Carlos Marmol was alternately warming up and standing around in the bullpen. The "standing around" is something we saw a few times earlier this year, when Kevin Gregg, then the closer, was warming up in a close game, ready to close, only to see the Cubs blow it open. Marmol hadn't thrown since Sunday, so Lou apparently decided to give him the work anyway.

It's a good thing the Cubs got those six runs, because Marmol was awful. He walked the bases loaded, gave up one run when Ryan Theriot inexplicably went to third base for a forceout instead of taking what would have been a likely double play (a run would have scored, but then Ronnie Belliard's pinch-strikeout would have ended the game). Willie Harris doubled off the RF wall for another run. Marmol threw only 17 strikes in 33 pitches and, given that, might not be available today. He still, clearly, needs to work on his arm slot.

It also rained -- hard -- for about an hour in the late afternoon, and the forecast of more rain last night plus the blowout loss on Tuesday made the actual turnout among the announced crowd of 36,562 quite a bit smaller than the first game of the series. The CF bleachers were nearly empty and there were only about 20 people in my section near the LF foul line. All told I'd estimate about 20,000-22,000 people showed up to see this victory. It is the smallest announced paid crowd in more than two years -- since 34,382 paid to see a 4-1 loss to the Brewers on April 24, 2007.

Weather permitting (and at this early-morning writing, it is pouring in Chicago), the Cubs will go for the series win this afternoon. Onward.