Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Sports NewsMayfield's Mutterings: A season of potential

Dukes, Willingham power Nats over Cubs

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[August 26, 2009]  CHICAGO (AP) -- Elijah Dukes hit a grand slam in a six-run fifth inning, Josh Willingham had two homers and six RBIs and the Washington Nationals rocked Carlos Zambrano in his return from the disabled list, routing the Chicago Cubs 15-6 on Tuesday night.

Dukes drove in a career-high five runs as the Nationals sent the Cubs to their 13th loss in 18 games, bringing out the boos at Wrigley Field. Chicago fell nine games out of first in the NL Central.

Willingham was 4-for-4 with a solo homer in the fourth off Zambrano and a three-run shot off Tom Gorzelanny in the eighth, powering Washington's highest scoring game of the season.

Zambrano (7-5), bothered by a bad back, hadn't pitched since going three innings Aug. 1. Activated off the disabled list before the game, he lasted only 4 1-3 innings, gave up seven hits and was charged with eight runs. Dukes' grand slam came off reliever Aaron Heilman and made it 9-1.

Zambrano was outpitched by the Nationals' Garrett Mock (3-5), who allowed seven hits and four runs in 5 2-3 innings, leaving after a two-run double to Geovany Soto in the sixth. Milton Bradley homered for Chicago in the seventh and Jeff Baker connected in the ninth.

Willingham's first homer broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth and the Nationals added a run on Dukes' RBI double.


The Nationals, who had lost six of their previous seven games, drove Zambrano out in the fifth. He hit Willie Harris with a pitch before Cristian Guzman and Ryan Zimmerman singled for Washington's fourth run. Zambrano then walked Adam Dunn to load the bases and then walked Willingham to force in a run, ending his night.

Heilman then struck out Ronnie Belliard out before Dukes connected on the two-out grand slam.

Nieves's sacrifice fly in the second gave Washington a 1-0 lead. He had a two-run bases-loaded single in the seventh.

Zambrano had admitted earlier that he had been lazy in his between-games abdominal workouts to keep his back strong. He also likes to take mighty cuts in batting practice and he showed why he does it when he hit his game-tying homer in the third.

Nationals' interim skipper Jim Riggleman managed the Cubs for five years and led them to 90 wins and the NL wild card in 1998, only to be fired after the next season when Chicago won 67 games.

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He understands the passion of Chicago's long suffering fans and how the criticism comes when the team is going poorly -- especially after a good season. He knows what Cubs manager Lou Piniella is dealing with.

"When you've gone through years of that here in Chicago if you're the current guy managing the club, you're the one who is going to catch the heat," said Riggleman, managing at Wrigley Field for the first time in a decade. "Lou will survive it."

NOTES: Nationals CF Nyjer Morgan was out of the lineup with flu-like symptoms and replaced by Willie Harris. .... Cubs LF Alfonso Soriano was scratched with a sore left knee and Jake Fox got the start.

[Associated Press; By RICK GANO]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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