CHICAGO (AP) -- Sean Marshall has a new tradition for his pregame
meal, and it's working for the Cubs rookie.
Marshall and three relievers combined on a one-hitter, Todd
Walker drove in two runs, and Chicago beat the Washington Nationals
5-0 Wednesday night for its second straight shutout victory.
"I had a steak and a salad for lunch and then a bratwurst
before the game," Marshall said of his ritual, which he started in
late April. "It's been good."
So has Marshall, who hasn't lost at Wrigley Field in four
starts. Marshall (3-1) retired the first 10 batters and had a
no-hitter going until Alfonso Soriano led off the sixth with a
single to left. Marshall walked four and struck out six in six
innings. He gave up nine runs in 3 2-3 innings in his last start at
San Francisco. The quick rebound impressed his veteran teammates.
"He didn't have his best command, but he battled out there,"
said center fielder Juan Pierre, who made a great diving catch to
rob Soriano of a hit in the fourth. "That's the sign of a pitcher
that's maturing a lot."
Marshall said he didn't feel his fastball was sharp enough, so
he relied on his changeup and the rest of his offspeed stuff.
"I was doing pretty good changing speeds in different counts,"
Marshall said. "It was just a matter of me building up my
confidence and having command of all my pitches."
The 6-foot-7 left-hander won for the first time in four starts
and the Cubs improved to 6-2 when he pitches. Carlos Zambrano threw
eight scoreless innings in Chicago's 4-0 win over the Nationals on
"The main thing is you're getting two great games by your
starting pitcher back-to-back," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.
"Hopefully this can become contagious to everybody."
Scott Williamson, Bob Howry and Scott Eyre each worked an
inning, with Eyre striking out the side in the ninth for the Cubs.
It was the first combined one-hitter for the Cubs since June 26
against the White Sox, whom the team faces this weekend.
Walker's two-run single capped off a three-run second inning for
the Cubs, who won two in a row for the first time since winning
three straight on April 23-25.
The Cubs won their first series since taking two of three
against Florida on April 24-26. The team had lost five series and
split one since then.
The Nationals have lost six of seven games. They hadn't been
shut out in consecutive games since St. Louis did it on Aug. 27-28.
"We just can't put anything together as far as offense is
concerned," manager Frank Robinson said.
Zach Day (2-4) took the loss, giving up three earned runs and
eight hits with three walks in four innings.
"We're struggling badly," Jose Vidro said. "It's not just the
hitting, it's just everything, no 'Ws,' no nothing. We're
struggling so badly right now that it's not worth watching."
The Cubs hadn't picked up consecutive shutouts since June 26 and
June 28, when they beat the White Sox and Brewers each 2-0.
Jacque Jones led off the second with a double off Day. He went
to third on a sacrifice and scored on a suicide squeeze bunt by
Ronny Cedeno, who reached safely. Marshall followed with a single,
Matt Murton walked to load the bases and Walker hit a hard single
up the middle to make it 4-0.
Marshall's steadiness helped Baker feel comfortable calling
plays like the suicide squeeze.
"It starts with starting pitching," he said. "If you're not
giving up anything, you can play that kind of ball. If you're
behind early or behind a lot, it kind of puts you behind the eight
ball, so to speak."
The Cubs took the lead in the first when Pierre singled, stole
second and took third on a grounder before scoring on third baseman
Ryan Zimmerman's error.
The Nationals managed just three walks and a fielder's choice
before the sixth. They had runners at first and third with two outs
in the fifth but pinch-hitter Robert Fick got called out on strikes
to end the threat. Fick was quickly ejected by home plate umpire
Marvin Hudson for arguing the call. He was pinch hitting for Day.
The game's start was delayed for almost an hour due to rain.
Robinson almost missed the game due to severe back spasms.
"My back is OK," he said. "I was signing an autograph. I
don't know what happened."
The Nationals' medical director, Dr. Bruce Thomas, was
fired Wednesday by the D.C. Sports Medicine Group, which is in its
first year as the primary medical provider of the team. Thomas was
hired by the group at the club's request and had worked for the
Nationals/Montreal Expos for 4½ years. He plans on moving back to
his home in Florida, according to the team. ... Cubs 3B Aramis
Ramirez left the game after the third inning with a mild lower back
strain. Baker said Ramirez wrenched his back in the second. He is
listed as day to day. ... Nationals outfielder Jose Guillen left
the game with a right hamstring strained in the fourth inning. He
is day to day. ... The Cubs met with the team's head of security to
discuss Tuesday's incident in which a woman threw a ball that
nearly hit Jones in the face. ... Kerry Wood will start Thursday
for the first time since July 20. He has been on the DL since
having arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder last August.