CHICAGO -- Nothing perturbs Lou Piniella more than a pitcher who lacks control. The Cubs manager was glad to be in the other dugout Saturday as the Washington Nationals went wild and walked in three runs.
"They got some young pitchers over there and some times young pitchers don't find the strike zone. Today was one of those days, unfortunately for the Nationals," Piniella said after the Cubs' 5-3 victory got them back to .500.
Washington starter John Patterson had to leave the game with a sore biceps muscle in the third inning, and emergency reliever Levale Speigner was given as much time as he needed to warm up. It didn't matter.
"It's one of those bad days," Speigner said. "You start off like that and then you start trying to force things. It just gets worse."
The Cubs got back to .500 (14-14) for the first time since they were 3-3 on April 8. Hill (4-1) allowed six hits and a run in six innings, sending Washington to its fourth straight loss. Chicago has won 7 of 8.
"We're back at .500. We got off to a slow start with all the expectations we had," said Chicago closer Ryan Dempster, who pitched a perfect ninth for his seventh save. "We're just playing better baseball."
Aramis Ramirez homered off Patterson to put Chicago ahead 2-0. Jacque Jones and Michael Barrett followed with singles and after Patterson went to a 3-1 count on Murton, a trainer came to the mound and the 6-foot-6 right-hander left the game.
Speigner completed the walk to Murton -- it was charged to Patterson -- to load the bases before walking Mark DeRosa and Hill back-to-back to force in two runs and make it 4-0. After Alfonso Soriano struck out, Speigner walked Ryan Theriot and the Cubs had a five-run cushion.
"It's surprising, but we did that all day," Nationals manager Manny Acta said. "We walked eight guys and especially the bottom of the order, including the pitcher. It hurt us."
Hill got his first major league RBI with his bases-loaded walk.
"It's tough to see guys go through that. I'm sure everybody who has pitched in this game has gone through something like that," Hill said. "As a competitor you want to beat that guy with his best stuff. (But) We'll take it."
Patterson, who made only eight starts a year ago because of a nerve problem in his right elbow that required surgery, allowed seven hits and was charged with five runs in his two-plus innings Friday.
Patterson said the biceps injury has been nagging him. He'll have an MRI exam, probably in Chicago, and could miss his next start.
"It's when I get extension. When I reach out to throw a pitch, my arm wants to protect itself and so it grabs and pulls up," he said.
"It does it on breaking balls. It does it on fast balls. So, it's something that I'm fighting. I don't really know what to do for it at this point."
The Cubs scored a run in the first on consecutive two-out singles by Lee, Ramirez and Jones.
Washington loaded the bases in the third before Austin Kearns, who'd homered Friday, flied out to Jones in front of the wall in left-center.
Neal Cotts relieved and after walking pinch-hitter Robert Fick, got a visit from an agitated Piniella, whose message was to throw strikes. Cotts then gave up an RBI double to Jesus Flores before striking out Kory Casto and Ryan Langerhans to end the threat.
"He had something he needed to say to me and he came out and said it. That's how I took it," Cotts said.
- Cub SS Theriot, who walked three times, caught a pop in the fourth after two bobbles. He'd initially bumped into 2B DeRosa behind the pitching mound.
- Patterson had been hit in the left cheek by a foul ball during batting practice Friday but was given the OK after tests were negative.
- Lee extended his hitting streak to 13 games. He has reached base safely in all 28 of the Cubs' games.
- Washington has lost six of seven.