Nationals 5, Cubs 4
Davey Johnson sported a bloody mark on the left side of his forehead, the result of hitting his head on a shelf when he was about to get in his car in the morning to escape a houseful of company.
The impact must have rattled him quite a bit. By the end of the day, the Washington Nationals manager who usually disdains small-ball called for a suicide squeeze. Not once, but twice. Two pitches apart. With the same batter at the plate.
''I must be brain-dead,'' Johnson said. ''I don't think I've ever squeezed. I don't really like to bunt that much.''
Wilson Ramos missed the sign the first time and swung away, fouling the ball off as Michael Morse covered his head while charging in from third. Ramos got the message the second time, bunting home Morse for the decisive run in the seventh inning of Wednesday night's 5-4 win over the Chicago Cubs.
''Man, it was scary,'' Morse said. ''But you know what? In the end, it worked out. He got the bunt down.''
Added Ramos: ''After he scored, he did `You did good, you did good.' But I almost killed him.''
The Nationals continue to take all their victories down to the wire. Each of their last 10 wins has been by either one run or in extra innings, and they are 13-3 in one-run games since June 1.
''It seems like all we play around here is tight, interesting ballgames,'' Johnson said.
Ryan Mattheus (2-0) pitched one inning to get his second major league win - and second in five days. Henry Rodriguez and Drew Storen (22nd save) completed another shutout effort from the bullpen.
Washington has won three straight and will go for the sweep on Thursday. The club improved to 5-5 under Johnson, who nevertheless remains perplexed by his team's stinginess with clutch hits. Washington stranded runners in scoring position in each of the first six innings and finished 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position.
It's his team's inability to produce the big inning that had him signaling for the squeeze, even though he couldn't recollect ever calling for one in his 15 seasons as a big league manager.
''You've got to open up the Cracker Jack box,'' he said.
Everyone was surprised by what he pulled out, especially the Cubs.
''I thought it was kind of a gutsy call ... especially off a guy that couldn't throw strikes here tonight as badly as I was off,'' Wood said. ''But it worked out for them, and they got the `W.'''
Zimmerman, showing signs of breaking out of a post-injury slump, had two doubles along with his fourth homer, giving him his first three-hit game of the year. He has five hits in his last two games and is now batting .218 since returning from abdominal surgery on June 14.
Struggling Nationals slugger Jayson Werth, who is quickly becoming a sideshow all to himself, was moved down to No. 6 in the lineup for the first time this season and had another rough night. He went 0 for 4 to lower his batting average to .218 and heard a hearty round of boos after his popout to shortstop with men and second and third with none out in the fifth.
Werth heard more jeers after misplaying Starlin Castro's double to right to lead off the sixth. The miscue proved costly when the next batter, Ramirez, hit one out to straightaway center to tie at 4. As the ball sailed over the fence, Werth leaned forward dejectedly with hands on knees, remaining that way until the next hitter was announced.
Werth did get a decent hand when he flew out in the seventh, driving the ball deep enough for Morse to advance from second to third to set up the squeeze.
''He's in a little funk right now,'' Johnson said. ''But I think he'll come out of it.''
NOTES: Espinosa's home run was his 16th, the most among second baseman in the majors as well as the most among all rookies. ... Nationals RHP Cole Kimball, on the 15-day disabled list, will be in New York on Friday to see another doctor about the inflammation in his throwing shoulder. ... The Cubs will decide Thursday whether RHP Ryan Dempster can make his scheduled start on Saturday. Dempster was hospitalized over the weekend with back pain and missed his start Monday. ... RHP Ramon Ortiz, who had a respectable outing in his Cubs debut Tuesday, will stay in the rotation for now and pitch again Sunday.
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP