Cubs 9, Nationals 1

There were two baseballs in the wooden tray that sits on the
desk in the visiting manager’s office at Nationals Park. One was
the last ball thrown in the game, a swinging strikeout that
finished off an eight-run victory. The other was a game ball saved
by the home plate umpire.

They were souvenirs from Mike Quade’s first game as a major
league manager, the Chicago Cubs’ 9-1 victory over the Washington
Nationals on Monday night.

”What do you do with all those baseballs? Throw BP with them? I
don’t know,” he said, joking. ”I’m not real nostalgic about that,
but it’s cool. It’s kind of a neat thing, obviously.”

The post-Piniella Cubs are off to quite a start. Not only did
Quade, the interim skipper, win his first game following the sudden
resignation of Lou Piniella on Sunday, but so did Casey Coleman.
The rookie right-hander took a one-hitter into the seventh inning,
and the Cubs had 15 hits to open a six-game road trip.

”I just want to go to sleep now,” Quade said. ”But those guys
made it easy for me. It was a stress-free night and fun to
watch.”

Quade was promoted from third base coach after Piniella’s
resignation and considers the rest of the season an audition for
the permanent job. He inherited a club that started the day 23
games below .500 and that had lost six of its previous seven, but
his debut produced Chicago’s first comfortable victory in nearly
three weeks.

Coleman helped make the manager’s job much easier. Making his
second start and sixth major league appearance, he allowed one run
and three hits with three strikeouts and two walks.

Coleman (1-1) faced only three batters above the minimum until
the seventh, when he gave up consecutive hits followed by Ivan
Rodridguez’s RBI groundout. Coleman even collected his first major
league hit, a single punched through a drawn-in infield in the
fifth that also produced his first RBI.

”I knew that the attention was on the Cubs now, with Lou
deciding to retire,” Coleman said. ”It’s been a disappointing
season for a lot of guys, and I just wanted to come up here,
especially tonight after something’s changed – some of us see it as
a new start – and you just want to go out and throw strikes and
help the team win. And hopefully we can finish the year
strong.”

The Cubs scored five runs in the third inning and two more in
the fifth against Livan Hernandez (8-9), who was left to toil for
121 pitches until he was finally removed with one out in the fifth.
The third inning included a leadoff home run by Blake DeWitt, two
hit batters, one walk, a two-run single by Tyler Colvin and a
two-run bloop triple by Alfonso Soriano that landed just inside the
line and barely out of reach of sprawled outfielder Willie
Harris.

Chicago had eight players get at least one hit – DeWitt and
Xavier Nady led the way with three each. Andrew Cashner and Thomas
Diamond pitched 2 2-3 innings of scoreless relief for the Cubs, who
hadn’t won a game by more than two runs since a 15-4 rout of
Milwaukee on Aug. 4.

Meanwhile, manager Jim Riggleman came up a different sort of
explanation for the Nationals’ lackluster performance: He said the
game’s slow pace created a bad ”aura” and sucked the life out of
the game.

”I talked to the ballclub after the game and let them know that
they have to play with more energy,” Riggleman said. ”You have to
find a way. Tonight I felt like we allowed the game situation to
have an aura hanging over us that it’s just not happening for us
tonight. It’s going to happen a time or two a year, and when it
does, it gets addressed.”

The day was already a long one for a Nationals team that was
coming off two shutout losses in a three-game series with
Philadelphia. Before Monday’s game, the team announced that rookie
ace Stephen Strasburg will be placed on the 15-day disabled list
and will undergo a second MRI on a strained tendon in his right
forearm.

”Even though it’s snowballing, we can’t let the snowball get
bigger,” outfielder Nyjer Morgan said. ”We know the talent that’s
in here, and that we have the capability to play against any team.
Basically, we have to show some more effort. We got embarrassed
tonight. Even though we got stomped tonight, we have to show the
effort.”

Notes: Cubs CF Marlon Byrd was hit on the right wrist by
Hernandez in the third inning. He stayed in the game to run the
bases but was removed in the bottom of the inning. X-rays were
negative, and Byrd is day to day with a bruise. … In a pregame
ceremony, the Nationals unveiled a plaque featuring Piniella on a
Washington Senators rookie baseball card from 1964. The Senators
drafted Piniella in 1962, but he never played for the franchise.
The plaque will be given to Piniella. … The Nationals announced
they are renewing their affiliation with the Double-A Harrisburg
Senators for two more years.