- Associated Press - Monday, August 23, 2010

WASHINGTON | 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.

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