Cubs top Nats in extras, win fourth straight

Cubs top Nats in extras, win fourth straight

CHICAGO -- Patience certainly paid off for the Cubs on Monday.

Two bases-loaded walks provided half of the Cubs' offense, including Aramis Ramirez's walk-off free pass in the 10th, as the Cubs defeated the Washington Nationals, 4-3, at Wrigley Field.

On a cold, blustery night where the wind kept potential long balls in the yard, the Cubs would gladly take a win any way they could.

"That's how you win games early in April," Ramirez said. "It's going to be tough to hit, the wind is going to blow in, and it's going to be cold."

The Cubs led 3-0 at one point, before the Nationals rallied to tie the game with two runs in the fourth and one in the sixth.

In the bottom of the 10th, Ryan Theriot got the inning started with a hit off Washington reliever Brian Bruney. With one out, Derrek Lee walked, then Marlon Byrd blooped a single to right to load the bases for Ramirez. Bruney didn't find the strike zone once, as the Cubs walked away with their fourth straight win.

Moving into the cleanup spot, the red-hot Byrd contributed three more hits in the victory. It's the fifth straight multi-hit game for Chicago's center fielder.

"It's just one of those things where you just try to see the ball well and put good wood on it," Byrd said. "You try not to get too high, too low -- just try to stay consistent."

"Marlon is a good player," manager Lou Piniella said. "He gets after it. He enjoys playing and he's been very productive for us."

The winds were blowing in at nearly 20 mph during the game, and almost became a factor in the second inning when Theriot got a workout chasing a Josh Willingham popup.

Theriot immediately broke to medium left field when the ball went in the air, only to reverse direction before catching the ball on the infield grass.

Theriot said of his adventure: "When it was hit -- me and [bench coach Alan] Trammell have been talking about it -- drop, step and run, get out there. That's what I did, and I looked up there and it's by the pitcher's mound. I've never seen a popup do that before."

"[Theriot] was way out in left field," Ramirez said, "so I was going for it. He made a nice running catch."

On any other night, Ramirez might have provided the winner two innings earlier, but the wind kept a drive to center field out of the seats.

"We hit some balls hard today that would've gone out," Piniella said, "and they hit some themselves."

Starter-turned-reliever Carlos Zambrano made his first home relief appearance, allowing only a hit in 1 2/3 scoreless innings.

"That's what they pay me for -- to do the job," he said.

Zambrano entered the game to a standing ovation and showed his customary emotions after striking out Nats catcher Wil Nieves to end a scoring threat in the eighth.

"It was pretty exciting," Zambrano said. "I had to calm myself down, and I did it."

Cubs starter Carlos Silva was solid in his second Wrigley Field start, permitting three runs on seven hits and a walk over seven innings, while striking out three.

Silva handed the ball over to a bullpen that's certainly received a jolt with the addition of Zambrano.

"The bullpen is really good," Silva said. "For me, it's very hard to see Zambrano there. The more work he gets, he's going to do the job."

Kerry Walls is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.