CHICAGO -- Daryle Ward thought back to his youth, when he was knocking the ball around Little League fields. There was unbridled joy then, and there was plenty of it on Sunday, too.
"This is great, we're having fun," said Ward, who had a pinch-hit single in the ninth. "We're playing like Little League ball, but we're grown men. It's great."
Things weren't looking so good about two weeks ago.
After hiring manager Lou Piniella and committing about $300 million in the offseason to acquire and retain players, the Cubs were 7-13 following a loss to Milwaukee on April 24.
They're 15-14 and above .500 for the first time since a 3-2 start.
"It's very important to see this thing play like this because the owners put a lot of money into making this team better," said Alfonso Soriano, who signed a $136 million deal with the Cubs in the offseason after spending last year with Washington.
Ryan Theriot tied it at 3 in the ninth with single off struggling Washington closer Chad Cordero, who has four blown saves in eight chances. The Nationals have lost five in a row overall.
After the game, they placed right-hander John Patterson on the disabled list because of elbow inflammation. He could miss at least a month.
"If we can't handle it, we'll quit. But we're not quitters," Dmitri Young said.
Matt Murton opened the bottom of the 10th with a double against Ryan Wagner (0-2), just over leaping third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Murton then moved to third with one out on pinch-hitter Henry Blanco's bloop single to right-center. With the outfield drawn in, Ward drove a single to deep left, giving the Cubs their eighth victory in nine games.
Ryan Dempster (1-1) pitched a scoreless inning for the win.
The Nationals appeared poised to end their losing streak when they took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth. But Cordero walked pinch-hitter Cliff Floyd leading off the inning, and Ward's pinch-hit single put runners on first and second.
With one out, Theriot took two strikes and two balls, fouled off four pitches and then lined a single to right to drive in pinch-runner Jason Marquis. After Derrek Lee was intentionally walked to load the bases, Aramis Ramirez forced Ward at home with a grounder to third for the second out, and Jacque Jones grounded to first.
Chicago took a 2-1 lead when Shawn Hill hit Jones with a pitch to force in a run in the fifth, but the Nationals scored two in the seventh off four relievers.
Young, in a 6-for-48 skid, gave the Nationals a 3-2 lead when he drove a pinch-hit, two-run single to center off Bob Howry. But the Washington bullpen couldn't hold it.
"I went in and tried to throw strikes, and I wasn't able to," Cordero said. "Everything I was throwing was running away, probably because I was opening up."
Hill allowed two runs and six hits in six innings. He struck out three but walked three -- one intentionally -- while hitting two batters with pitches.
Chicago's Angel Guzman allowed one run and two hits over five innings and was in line for his first major league win after being recalled from Triple-A Iowa before the game. But the Cubs' bullpen couldn't hang on.
Lee singled in the first inning to extend his hitting streak to 14 games and has reached safely in all 29 games. Soriano singled leading off the fifth to extend his streak to 15, tying a career high. It's the fourth time he has hit in 15 straight.
He also made his first appearance at second base since Oct. 1, 2005, when he moved there from left field in the 10th -- one of many switches by Piniella, who used 21 players. Jones started in center, moved to right and went back to center, and Theriot went from second to shortstop.
"We all get an opportunity to play, and for me, it's just about taking advantage of that opportunity," Floyd said. "I want to win. I know these guys are young and want to play, but the main thing is winning."
Guzman replaced INF Ronny Cedeno, who was optioned to Triple-A after Saturday's game. Cedeno was 3-for-31 (.097). So the Cubs kept OF Felix Pie rather than send him to the minors for more at-bats. Piniella said before the game he needs "to take care of" the veterans and will get "Pie in there as we can." Asked what went into the decision to keep Pie, a weary Piniella snapped, "It's my decision. ... I'm trying to be as nice as I can every day. I get too many of these questions about my outfield. I come to the ballpark and I make a lineup, and I make the one that I think can help me win a baseball game that day." ... The Nationals activated SS Cristian Guzman (strained left hamstring) and OF Nook Logan (sprained left foot) from the DL and sent OF Michael Restovich to Triple-A Columbus.