Cubs starter Les Walrond had far and away his worst outing of the year, and probably his entire career to date. He served up 13 runs (all earned) on as many hits before exiting. Entering the night, he was 6-1 with a 2.19 ERA in 12 starts with 13 unearned runs.
No doubt taking one for the team, Walrond (6-2) mercifully left after 3 2/3 innings. He yielded nine runs in the second inning alone, including a three-run homer by former Reds big leaguer Brandon Larson, now the starting third baseman for the Triple-A Zephyrs.
Larson said afterward that he and his teammates were fortunate to have gotten a good scouting report on the 29-year-old southpaw.
"We knew that he'd been tough all year," Larson said of Walrond. "With the travel day they had today, I'm sure he was as fatigued as we all were. It's tough to come down here and pitch in this heat, but I'd faced him before and he's usually pretty sharp. He left some balls up and we got some good swings out of it."
Temperature at game time was listed at 94 degrees and a record-high of 95 swept through New Orleans Monday. The Cubs didn't arrive at the park until some time around 4:30 p.m. and did not participate in batting practice.
"It was a rough day," third baseman Casey McGehee admitted. "We had the long flight and I got maybe an hour and a half of sleep last night. I'm beat."
Meanwhile, acting Zephyrs manager Scott Little, the Nationals' Minor League Field Coordinator, said the Cubs showed a lot of heart, if not much else.
"Walrond showed a lot of guts and handled himself really well I thought," Little said. "He stayed out and wouldn't let them use up their bullpen. That shows a lot of composure. They don't quit. They went out and tried to have good, quality at-bats even when they were down 10-0. On a night like this, that's always good to see."
Zephyrs starter John Patterson had better results than Walrond, but failed to qualify for the win. He left after 4 2/3 innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits. Andrew Good (2-5) picked up the win in relief with 3 1/3 innings. He allowed three runs on five hits.
Little has been serving as the Zephyrs' interim manager since skipper Tim Foli, a 16-year major league veteran with the Mets, Pirates and Expos, took a temporary leave of absence from the club.
In the short time he's been on the job, Little has overseen some of the Nationals' top minor league performers, such as first baseman Larry Broadway, who is batting .344 with seven home runs and 45 RBIs in 62 games.
"Since I've been here, our team has been fun to watch," Little said. "There are a lot of people here that could really get the call up. It all depends on what their needs are up there. We're playing good baseball right now. All we can do is contribute and either help [Washington] get better or help sustain themselves until other guys get better.
"Fortunately, there's more than enough talent here to help them do that."
Originally from the town of Slidell, La., just north of New Orleans, Fontenot played college ball at LSU. The 5'8", 160-pound infielder, who occasionally puts the "short" in shortstop and was dropped from the Cubs' 40-man roster last year, hit his fifth home run of the season and maintains a .305 average through 56 games.
Going yard in front of some of his longtime friends and family was a special feeling.
"It's always special and it's always nice to hit one, especially with some of the folks in town," Fontenot said. "I have an uncle who always tells me to hit one for him. I was glad to get one over the fence."
Iowa fell to 27-36, now 7.5 games back of first-place Nashville in the Pacific Coast League's American North Division. With the win, New Orleans improved to 36-28, just a game and a half back of first place Albuquerque in the league's tightly packed American South division.
A crowd of 2,414 was on hand to welcome the Cubs to town. According to various pressbox reports, upwards of 5,000 tickets were sold in advance for Tuesday's game, which will feature Mark Prior on a rehab assignment.
Prior was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans late Monday and, per his request, will address the media immediately after his outing Tuesday rather than wait until the conclusion of the game.
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