A rainbow appeared over the right-field bleachers of Wrigley Field during Wednesday night's pregame rain delay, a sure sign Kerry Wood's comeback is just around the corner.
The Cubs are looking for any good omen they can find because waiting on starters Wood and Mark Prior to return has been a recurring theme for the last three seasons. This year's wait has been more agonizing than usual because of the crippling loss of Derrek Lee.
"We haven't pitched as much as we'd have liked to," Wood said. "But hopefully that's going to change."
The Cubs seemingly have changed their momentum after a 2-14 slump. They beat Washington 5-0 Wednesday night to capture their first series since taking two of three from Florida from April 24-26.
Cubs rookie left-hander Sean Marshall, who was shelled for the first time in his last outing in San Francisco, pitched six shutout innings, allowing only one hit.
The only sore point for the Cubs was another nagging injury to Aramis Ramirez, who left with a strained lower back in the third inning.
"We think he's OK," manager Dusty Baker said. "He has been swinging kind of hard lately and wrenched his lower back."
Marshall carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Alfonso Soriano broke it up with a leadoff single. Marshall said he wasn't aware of the no-hitter, though it was the second time he had taken one into the sixth in his last three starts.
Marshall entered the game limiting opposing hitters to a .209 average, trailing only Pedro Martinez's .164 and Jason Schmidt's .199 among National League starters. He has held opposing teams to four or fewer hits in five of his last six starts.
Marshall cruised through the Nationals' lineup, retiring the first 10 batters until Marlon Byrd walked in the fourth. Though Marshall walked four, he came up with the big pitch when necessary, striking out Robert Fick with two on to end the fifth and Marlon Anderson with two on to end the sixth.
"It's just a matter of me building up my confidence, to be able to have command of all my pitches," Marshall said. "I pitched pretty good with my changeup because my fastball was not as good as it has been."
The Cubs started fast. After Juan Pierre reached on a bunt single to start the first, stole second and advanced on Matt Murton's groundout, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman booted Michael Barrett's grounder to bring in the first run.
"That's my game," Pierre said. "The dirtier my uniform is, the better I'm playing. My uniform has been clean pretty this season, so I'm definitely trying to get it dirty."
Ronny Cedeno's suicide squeeze scored Jacque Jones with the second run in the second, and Todd Walker added a two-run, bases-loaded single later in the inning to make it 4-0. Pinch-hitting for Marshall leading off the sixth, Freddie Bynum victimized Jon Rauch for his first career home run.
Now the Cubs await the return of Wood after 8 1/2 months of rehabbing and dozens of updates on his status.
"I'm sure his adrenaline is going to be pumping," Baker said. "Everybody is going to be pumped."
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