- The Washington Times - Monday, July 4, 2005

CHICAGO — On a day when reliever Chad Cordero finally blew a save after converting 26 straight, the Washington Nationals still found a way to win.

The Chicago Cubs twice came back to tie the game yesterday before catcher Brian Schneider’s solo home run in the 12th inning lifted the Nationals to a 5-4 win before 40,006 at Wrigley Field to complete a three-game sweep.

At the midway point of its season, Washington is 50-31 and has a 5-gane lead over Atlanta in the National League East.

Yesterday’s victory gave the Nationals their first series sweep on the road this season and marked the first time the franchise has swept the Cubs (40-40) at Wrigley since June3-5, 1994.

The Nationals have won 11 straight games by one run and are 22-7 this season in such games.



“We hung together as a team, stuck with it, won a tough ball game on the road, and that gives you a little indication of what this team is all about,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said.

The last time Cordero, who was selected to the All-Star Game yesterday, blew a save was April21 at RFK Stadium when Cristian Guzman’s ninth-inning throwing error during a downpour allowed the Braves to escape with a 2-1 victory.

With two outs in the ninth inning yesterday and the Nationals leading 2-0, Cordero allowed a game-tying home run to All-Star Aramis Ramirez.

“They tied the ballgame, and I saw the pitch. It was down,” center fielder Brad Wilkerson said. “We stayed upbeat and did a great job of hanging in there. The guys didn’t hang their heads when they tied the ballgame. We wanted this win real bad.”

They got it in the 12th inning. Schneider hit a two-out homer into the right-field bleachers off Cubs reliever Sergio Mitre (2-4) to give the Nationals their third and final lead of the game. Washington never trailed during the series and became the first club to sweep Chicago at Wrigley Field this season.

“He’s been coming on of late,” Robinson said of Schneider, who has six home runs and has raised his batting average to .271 over the past four weeks.

Behind starter Ryan Drese, it looked like the Nationals were going to cruise to another victory. Drese shut out the Cubs for seven innings while allowing just four hits to protect Washington’s 2-0 lead.

Vinny Castilla gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead on a first-inning double to the gap in right-center field that scored Junior Spivey, and in the fourth Schneider (2-for-6, two RBI) drove in the second run on a single to left that scored Jose Guillen.

In the 11th inning, it looked like Wilkerson was going to be Washington’s hero. With the bases loaded, he drilled a two-run double off the ivy-covered center-field wall that scored Carlos Baerga and Schneider to give the Nationals a 4-2 lead.

But the Cubs answered with a pair of runs to tie the game. Jerry Hairston, the former Baltimore Orioles second baseman, led off the inning with his third home run of the season — a shot inside the left-field foul pole against reliever Hector Carrasco. Todd Hollandsworth sent the game to the 12th with a double to right field off left-hander Joey Eischen (2-0) that scored Jeromy Burnitz.

Note — The Cubs honored Mia Hamm, who is married to injured Chicago shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, and donated $5,000 to the Mia Hamm Foundation, which is focused on raising money for bone marrow transplant paitents and improving the opportunities for young women in sports. Hamm, who led the Washington Freedom to the defunct WUSA’s final championship two years ago, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Garciaparra. Hamm also was “guest conductor” and led “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch.

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