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Cubs' power surge continues in victory vs. Nats

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs kept up their power surge
Wednesday night, and it continued at Wrigley Field, too.
Reed Johnson enjoyed the location most of all.
Johnson, Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto homered and Chicago
beat the Washington Nationals 4-2 for its eighth victory in its
past 10 games.

The disappointing Cubs have little to play for over the final
two months of the season, but Johnson is glad the club is finally
putting on a show for the Wrigley faithful.

"It's better for us and it's better for our fans," Johnson
said. "I know we haven't been too impressive really at all in any
part of the year. ... We're playing pretty good baseball now. I'm
glad fans are getting to see that."

Johnson also had three singles in his seventh career four-hit
game. Soriano also doubled and drove in two runs, and Soto scored
twice.

The Cubs have connected in eight straight games and have hit 19
home runs over that stretch.

Chicago starter Rodrigo Lopez (3-3) allowed two runs, one
earned, and five hits in 5 2/3 innings. He gave up 12 earned runs
over 8 1/3 innings in his previous two starts.

"I think I had a good game going on," Lopez said. "I wish I
could go longer, but I guess there was a good reason (to be
removed) after my last two outings. I come out with a good feeling
about myself and at the end, it works for all of us."

Carlos Marmol struck out three in a scoreless ninth for his 25th
save in 32 chances. The Cubs' bullpen, which has been dominating at
times this season, racked up 3 1/3 scoreless innings.

"They're good and they're really good when they're fresh,"
Cubs manager Mike Quade said of his relievers.

Ross Detwiler (1-2) pitched five innings for Washington,
yielding three runs and seven hits. He dropped to 0-8 in 16 career
road appearances, including 10 starts.

"It's not one thing," Detwiler said of his road woes. "It's a
pitch here, a pitch there, not getting a bunt down. Little
things."

Jayson Werth hit a solo home run and singled for Washington.

"(Lopez has) been pitching a long time, he knows what he's
doing out there," Werth said. "He was moving the ball around,
changed speeds. Just kept us off balance.

"I was able to get one up in the air. This time of year in
Chicago, if you get one up, usually it will go. The ball was flying
today; unfortunately we were just on the other side."

The Nationals scored first, getting an unearned run in the
opening inning on a throwing error by shortstop Starlin Castro that
let Ryan Zimmerman score all the way from first.

The Cubs have surrendered 90 first-inning runs this season, most
in the big leagues. Castro's miscue was the Cubs' 95th error on the
season, most in the National League.

Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to 18 games. That's the
second-longest for the Nationals in the seven seasons since they
moved to Washington from Montreal. Zimmerman had a 30-game hitting
streak in 2009.

The Cubs tied it in the second when Soto led off with his 12th
homer of the season, a shot that sneaked into the first row of the
bleachers inside the left-field foul pole.

"Right now everything seems to be going the right direction,"
Soto said.

Chicago took the lead in the fourth but missed a chance at a big
inning. Soto walked with one out and scored on Soriano's bloop
double off the right-field line that a sliding Werth just missed
running down.

"I just put my head down and kept running," Soto said.

Washington then intentionally walked Darwin Barney with the pitcher on
deck, but Lopez singled to center. The slow-running Soriano was
unable to score on the play, leaving the bases loaded for Castro,
the NL hits leader. Castro struck out, ending the threat.

Johnson led off the fifth with his fifth homer, putting the Cubs
up 3-1.

"I kind of rolled a couple through the hole early and it
started to relax me a little bit," Johnson said.

Werth responded with his 14th homer, a drive into the bleachers
in left-center in the sixth. That was it for Lopez, who departed
after 89 pitches.

"There are times when you want to get a guy out of there when
he's feeling good about himself," Quade said. "After the home
run, it was a little earlier than I wanted to go to (reliever Jeff) Samardzija, but it happens."

Detwiler was pulled after throwing 84 pitches. Nationals manager
Davey Johnson gave him passing marks, but just barely, noting
Detwiler had only been starting for a short while.

"He's been in the bullpen," Johnson said. "I give him a
C-plus for tonight. The two ballparks he's pitched in lately, you
have to be perfect, you can't make any mistakes. He minimized the
damage tonight."

Soriano connected against Collin Balester with one out in the
sixth, hitting a drive to left-center for his 20th homer. Soriano
has homered at least 20 times in 10 straight seasons, joining St.
Louis' Albert Pujols and Boston's David Ortiz as the only players
to reach that mark in each season of the last decade.

"I'm very proud of myself because I work hard and try to be
consistent in this game," Soriano said. "I never expected to hit
20 home runs in this game but I did. I think it's because of the
hard work and concentration and the love that I have for the
game."

Game notes
After being a late scratch Tuesday because of back
spasms, Cubs 3B Aramis Ramirez returned to the lineup. Quade didn't
issue a lineup until after Ramirez went through pregame batting
practice. Once he completed that with no complications, he was
cleared to play. Ramirez leads all major league players with 15
home runs since June 25. ... Davey Johnson said of ailing catcher
Ivan Rodriguez, "He's not doing too well. He's pushing it too hard
and he's had a setback." Rodriguez has been on the disabled list
since July 7 with a strained right oblique. There is no current
timetable for his return. ... The Cubs and Nationals wrap up their
three-game series Thursday afternoon in a makeup of Monday's
rainout. Ryan Dempster will look to continue his solid pitching of
late in his start for the Cubs. He is 5-3 with a 3.26 ERA over his
past 12 starts. Jordan Zimmermann will take the mound for
Washington. Zimmermann has a 6.35 ERA in his two career starts
against Chicago. ... The Cubs unveiled a statue of longtime third
baseman and broadcaster Ron Santo in a ceremony before Wednesday's
game. The statue depicts Santo making a throw and is place in the
plaza on the southeast corner outside Wrigley Field. ... Castro's
streak of scoring a run in 10 straight games came to an end. The
last Cub to score 11 games in a row was Rick Monday in 1976.