Washington fell behind early on a first inning home run by Anthony Rizzo. By the end of the third inning the Nationals led 6-1 after Jayson Werth hit a 3-0 fastball from Cubs' starter Jake Arrieta out to left to give the Nats a five-run advantage. It wouldn't last. A seven-hit, five-run bottom of the fifth knocked Nats' starter Ross Ohlendorf out and got the Cubs back in the game.
"All kinds of strange things happened," the Nats' skipper told reporters after the win. "[Ross] Ohlendorf was pitching real good, and he kind of ran out of gas just like he was done. And then [Tanner] Roark giving up five straight hits or something like that? I knew that wasn't going to happen again, that's why I sent him back out. I knew the chances were he would pitch a lot better the next time."
Ohlendorf, in his return from the DL, gave up two home runs by Cubs' first baseman Anthony Rizzo, one in the first and then again in the fifth, before he was lifted, having thrown 91 pitches in 4 1/3 IP in which he gave up six hits, two walks and four earned runs. "I was hoping [Ohlendorf] could give me 90 pitches," Johnson said, "but really I should have held him to about 80. I had somebody warming up and [Kurt] Suzuki came around by the dugout and he hollered in there, 'He's out of gas.' And I said, 'We know.' But it was a great outcome and a good team win."
Tanner Roark, pitching in front of a large contingent of fans from his hometown of Wilmington, Illinois, gave up four hits in the fifth, then came back with a 14-pitch sixth inning in which he struck out the side.
"I thought he made all good pitches," Davey Johnson said, breaking down Roark's performance. "He kept the ball down. And sometimes, all of a sudden, momentum shifts, and guys just all of a sudden feel wonderful and just swing the bat and they hit good pitches and all found holes. Maybe it is that he can't come in the game with runners on. That's what [Steve McCatty] was telling me. I said, 'Don't go that far.'"
Things were still tied at 6-6 after six, when a former Cub came through for the Nationals. Bryce Harper doubled off Cubs' lefty James Russell, leading to an intentional walk to Jayson Werth that brought Scott Hairston to the plate. Hairston, acquired by the Nats in a July 8th deal with Chicago, hit his first home run in a Nationals uniform, taking a 1-2 change out to left for a three-run blast that gave Washington a 9-6 lead.
"The offense came around," the Nationals' 70-year-old skipper said, "It was great to see Scotty Hairston get a hold of one and get a big hit for us."
"He's a smart and a veteran-type player," Johnson continued, "And he's got a lot of big hits in the past. And that's his role, I mean he came over to me before the inning, came up and said, 'What is it?' I said, 'Fifth. Fifth up.' He runs right up there and that was fun to watch. I know that he wants to show these guys what they're missing and he did a heck of a job. He hasn't really got big hits for us in the pinch hit role, but that certainly makes up for anything he hasn't done in the past, that was big."
After Craig Stammen threw a scoreless bottom of the seventh, the Nationals added two more runs in the top of the eighth on an RBI triple by Denard Span and a run-scoring single by Ryan Zimmerman. Davey Johnson turned to his A-pen after that, with Tyler Clippard retiring the Cubs in order in the eighth and Rafael Soriano working a scoreless, interesting, ninth in which he gave up three singles, but got the final out on a baserunning blunder by Cubs' first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who was caught rounding third base on the third hit and tagged out to end the game.
"It worked out all right," Johnson said. "I hate to have to use Clipp and Soriano in that game, but I had to stop Stammen short. I need somebody to give me some innings tomorrow if something happens. There was no choice but to send those two guys out there. And we're one guy short and after Roark pitched a couple innings, he's not good for a couple of days."
As for Soriano's interesting outing? "It's been kind of a weird year for that," the Nationals' manager said, "He's given up more hits than he usually does, but we got the win and he didn't give up anything, so all is good."