The offense came alive, and starting pitcher Rich Harden turned in a good performance.
The Cubs entered the second half of the season 15th in runs scored in the National League, and that was a big reason for their lackluster 43-43 record at the All-Star break.
"We need to score more runs," manager Lou Piniella said. "We didn't score nearly enough runs in the first half."
The Cubs led the league in runs scored last year, and they also were first in walks, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. They've been no better than middle-of-the-pack in those key categories this year.
Harden snapped a two-game losing streak, during which he gave up a combined 11 runs. Harden's command has been off for much of this year, but he walked none while striking out seven Nationals on Thursday.
CUBS 6, NATIONALS 2: Harden worked six innings, giving up three hits and one unearned run. 1B Derrek Lee hit a solo homer in the third, and the Cubs added three runs in the ninth.
-- Harden continued to shine on the road. At home, Harden is 2-5 with a 7.59 ERA. After Thursday's victory, he is 4-1 with a 2.17 ERA away from Wrigley Field. Harden turned in the Cubs' 56th quality start of the season. That leads the major leagues.
--SS Ryan Theriot extended his hitting streak to nine games with a third-inning double Thursday. He also had a sacrifice fly in the Cubs' three-run ninth inning.
--RHP Carlos Zambrano's home run in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader was his third of this season and the 19th of his career. The switch-hitting Zambrano is the Cubs' all-time home run leader among pitchers. On the mound, Zambrano is 1-1 with a 1.86 ERA in three July starts.
--LHP B.J. Ryan, released by the Blue Jays last week, signed a minor league contract with the Cubs. He will pitch at the team's facility in Mesa, Ariz., before a likely assignment to Class AAA Iowa. In 25 appearances for Toronto this season, Ryan was 1-1 with two saves and a 6.53 ERA.
-- Lee doubled, homered and singled Thursday, and he showed no ill effects from the neck spasms that forced him out of a game last weekend. The homer was the 18th for Lee, who leads the team.
--LF Alfonso Soriano has batted sixth in six of his last nine games, including Thursday, when he went 1-for-3 with a walk. He was moved out of the leadoff spot July 4 and has batted sixth, fifth and third since then. He has not homered since June 7.
--3B Aramis Ramirez's five-game hitting streak was snapped. Ramirez came off the disabled list July 6 after spending nearly two months on the shelf with a dislocated left shoulder. He was 6-for-20 during the hitting streak. He has not homered since May 6, and the power may not return fully until the shoulder is close to 100 percent. Ramirez said he was about "85 percent" when he came off the disabled list.
--The Sports XChange
IOWA 11, NASHVILLE 4 (CLASS AAA)
At Des Moines, the Cubs (47-44) used an 11-hit attack to get the victory Thursday. 1B Matt Craig (2-for-4) hit his first home run since joining the team from Class AAA New Orleans (Marlins), and 2B Nate Spears (2-for-3, double) drove in a season high four runs. RHP Justin Berg (4-1) got the win with one scoreless inning in relief of RHP Esmailin Caridad, who allowed four runs and nine hits over six innings for a no-decision. He walked three batters and struck out three.
TENNESSEE 9, JACKSONVILLE 2 (CLASS AA)
At Jacksonville, Fla., the Smokies (43-49 overall, 11-11 second half) collected 11 hits in the victory Thursday. C Welington Castillo (3-for-5) doubled twice and tied a season high with three hits and three RBI. 3B Marquez Smith (2-for-3) drove in three runs and reached base four times. LF Ty Wright (1-for-5) extended his hit streak to seven games. RHP Alex Maestri (2-1) took the win with one scoreless inning in relief of LHP Jeremy Papelbon, who allowed one run and three hits over five innings for a no-decision. He struck out five and did not allow a walk.
TAMPA 5, DAYTONA 3 (CLASS HIGH-A)
At Daytona Beach, the Cubs (43-43, 9-10) were held to six hits in the loss Thursday. CF Tony Campana (2-for-3) and C Robinson Chirinos (2-for-3, walk) led the team in hits. Campana has 22 multi-hit games in 59 contests with the team and is batting .291. RHP Dan McDaniel (5-7) suffered the loss, allowing three earned runs and eight hits in five innings. He walked three and struck out one.
WEST MICHIGAN 11, PEORIA 7 (CLASS-A)
At Comstock Park, Mich., the Chiefs (47-42, 9-11) were out-hit, 17-12, in the loss Thursday. Five players finished with two hits, including 1B Rebel Ridling (2-for-4) and RF Kyler Burke (2-for-5), who hit their ninth and seventh home runs of the season, respectively. LHP Chris Siegfried (0-2) suffered the loss in relief, allowing a season-high four runs on five hits in 2 2/3 innings. RHP Marcus Hatley started and pitched two innings, allowing five runs and seven hits.
BOISE 14, YAKIMA 5 (CLASS LOW-A)
At Boise, the Hawks (10-16) totaled a season high 20 hits en route to their most lopsided victory of the season Thursday. DH Logan Watkins (5-for-6) collected a career high five hits to extend his hit streak to eight games. He has five straight multi-hit games (16-for-23) and is batting .344 in 25 contests overall. SS Hak-Ju Lee (3-for-5) doubled, tripled and drove in four runs. He has reached base safely in 11 consecutive games. CF Brett Jackson (1-for-2) walked four times. He has reached base safely in each of his first 12 games with the team and is batting .310 with an on-base percentage of .463. C Richard Jones (2-for-6, double, four RBI) made his Boise debut after going 15-for-47 with seven home runs and 17 RBI in 12 games in the Arizona Rookie League. RHP Eduardo Figueroa (1-0) got the win in his Boise debut despite allowing two runs and three hits in two innings. RHP Josh Whitlock started and tossed four scoreless innings, allowing just one hit in a no-decision. He struck out four.
CUBS 5, PADRES 4 (ARIZONA ROOKIE LEAGUE)
At Mesa, the Cubs (10-11) collected 10 hits in the victory Thursday. LF Robert Wagner (3-for-4, triple) paced the offense with three hits and has four multi-hit games in his first five contests with the team. RHP Toby Matchulat (1-2) earned the win in relief, allowing one run and two hits over four innings. LHP Chris Rusin, the Cubs’ 2009 fourth-round draft pick from Kentucky, made his professional debut and pitched two scoreless innings, allowing two walks. He struck out one.