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Game Thread: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals- 2008 Game 25 of 162. ("Not Since Tim Raines...")

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Well, ESPN's Baseball Tonight beat me to the punch, as they came up with the right name while I was still searching for the answer to the following question:

"When was the last time in Nationals' franchise history that a players' first home run was a walk-off winner?"

The obvious impetus for the query being Wil Nieves' ninth-inning-riser of a home run, which seemed to shock everyone by actually making it out of the park in right, giving the Nationals a stunning walk-off win over the NL Central's top team, the Chicago Cubs, who are in town for two more, tonight and tomorrow. The answer to the question, (which probably won't surprise many)...

The last time an Expos/Nationals player hit a walk-off home run as their own first Major League home run:

Tim Raines - May 1, 1981 at Montreal, QC's Stade Olympique to give the Montreal Expos a 9-8 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers in the bottom of the 13th inning off righty Bobby Castillo. (Baseball-reference.com's Box Score 5/1/81).

Raines was in his 38th professional game. Last night Wil Nieves was in his 70th Major League game...(for those of you still wondering, Nieves played one season for the Padres in '02, reemerging 3 years later in '05 in NY, where he spent parts of three years as a backup with the Yankees before signing in DC this winter)...

Nieves' other highlight last night came in the top of the seventh with the Nationals leading 3-2 over Chicago, as I wrote in the Game Report :

"Ryan Theriot sneaks one under Guzman's glove at short for a single. Full count to D. Lee...strike three! Theriot's running, Wil Nieves nails him at second. Strike 'em out throw 'em out, Stand up and stretch..."

On the Hill...

Matt Chico (0-4, 6.04 ERA) has only faced the Chicago Cubs once in his year-plus in the Majors, and Chico was the winner in that game, pitching 7.0 innings of 4-hit, shutout ball in a 6-0 DC win against the Cubbies back on July 4th of last season in spacious RFK Stadium, with Ryan Zimmerman's first-inning-dinger the only run Chico would need that day.

The Cubs throw right-hander Carlos Zambrano (3-1, 2.67 ERA), who has faced the Nationals/Expos 10 times in his 7-year career, with tomorrow night's game Zambrano's 9th start against the franchise in his 8th season...Zambrano's (5-2) in his 8 previous starts, with a 3.42 ERA and 49 K's in 52.2 IP against DC/Montreal. Zambrano last faced the Nationals on July 3rd of last season, going 6.2 IP, and allowing 3 hits and 1 ER in a 3-1 Chicago win over Washington.

Nationals' #'s Against Carlos Zambrano...

Wil Nieves - 2 for 2...(as if you needed another reason to start Mr. Nieves!!)

Johnny Estrada - 5 for 17, .294 AVG.

Felipe Lopez - 7 for 28, .250 AVG, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBI's.

Rob Mackowiak - 11 for 36, .306 AVG, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBI's.

Wily Mo Pena - 4 for 12, .333 AVG.

INJURY UPDATE...

MLB.com's Bill Ladson reported last night in his article entitled, "Nats getting healthy; Kearns rests", that Nationals' catcher:

"...Paul Lo Duca participated in catching drills on Friday and didn't have any problems throwing the baseball."

- - Insert your own Paul Lo Duca "throwing the baseball" joke here - -

Elsewhere in Mr. Ladson's article he reports that Elijah Dukes starts a rehab stint with the P-Nats(Potomac Nationals) tomorrow. (Dukes was on the bench in DC last night), and Mr. Ladson writes that Chad Cordero, "...is expected to be available against the Cubs on Saturday," though he cautions:

"Manager Manny Acta said he would like Cordero to play one more game before he gets his closer's job back."

In Cordero's absence from the closer role, The Tallest Closer in MLB History, Jon Rauch has blown 2 of 5 save opportunities, and posted a (1-0) record and 5.59 ERA, and he's surrendered 14 hits, 2 walks, 6 ER's and 2 HR's in 9.2 IP.

The Flat-Brimmed Closer, Chad Cordero, has given up 3 hits and 3 walks, with 3 K's in 3.0 scoreless innings this season.

Reed Johnson's Ridiculous Fearless Catch from last night... (...how did he not separate his shoulder?)

Two Game Win Streak On the Line...

Check the NatCast if you're heading to Nationals Park...(Tonight might be a REALLY good night to check,,,)

The first winning streak since the first three games is on the line tomorrow night at 7:05 PM EST.

(ed. note - "PS. The SB Nation's Chicago Cubs blog, www.bleedcubbieblue.com, is one of the best in the blogosphere...make sure to check out Chicago's persective before, during, and after the game and all weekend long...")