WASHINGTON -- If you turned the Cubs' game off after the third inning, you missed a doozy.
Second baseman Darwin Barney hit a go-ahead RBI double with two outs in the ninth to cap an amazing comeback, lifting the Cubs to a 10-9 victory over the Nationals on Thursday.
"There isn't one guy in this room who didn't contribute to that win today," Barney said. "And that's what's special about these guys."
The Cubs rallied from an eight-run deficit and scored six runs in the sixth -- getting three on Blake DeWitt's pinch-hit homer -- then tied the game on Carlos Pena's two-run homer in the seventh and went ahead, 9-8, on Aramis Ramirez's two-out RBI single in the eighth.
"When you're down, 8-0, it's easy to roll over," Barney said. "We responded to their big inning with one of our own. The most important thing was the inning after the six-run inning, we tacked one on. That's big to keep tacking runs on and putting pressure on them.
"Fortunately, we had seven innings to play after we were down," he said, "and you've got to stay optimistic."
They needed that positive vibe after Michael Morse locked it up at 9 with a two-out RBI single in the Nationals' eighth off reliever Sean Marshall.
But with one out in the Chicago ninth, pinch-hitter Tony Campana was safe at first on a fielder's choice and stole second. Barney then lined the ball deep into the corner in right.
"This one's pretty neat," DeWitt said. "The lead changes, tying the ballgame -- it was definitely a fun win. The atmosphere out there was a lot of fun."
It's the first time the Cubs have erased an eight-run deficit en route to a win since May 30, 2008, when they trailed 8-0 and 9-1 against the Rockies and eventually won, 10-9.
Sure, celebrate the Cubs' resiliency. But there were a few glitches that will be addressed.
"Sometimes I think the effort is so over the top it causes some of the mistakes, and we need to find some balance," Cubs manager Mike Quade said.
They lost a ball in the twilight when right fielder Kosuke Fukudome and Barney watched Ryan Zimmerman's ball drop between them in the fourth. Pinch-hitter Jeff Baker tried to stretch a single into a double and was thrown out at second in the fifth. Cubs starter Matt Garza rushed to make a play and threw wildly for an error in the third inning.
"I'm all about playing hard and going after it, but we've got to mix in a little bit of intelligence when we're down as well," Quade said. "When you see the kind of effort you got tonight, if you can eliminate those mistakes and shore up the pitching a little, you think you'll be OK."
Before Thursday's game, Quade looked ahead to better days.
"I believe we can turn this thing around, and I believe it can start today," Quade said. "I'll believe that every day. ... There's nothing like today -- get a good outing from Garza and win a ballgame here and go into Pittsburgh and start to try and turn this thing around right now."
Garza missed his cue. The Nationals scored seven runs in the third against the right-hander, who failed to retire a batter in the inning. He served up six straight hits, beginning with opposing pitcher Livan Hernandez's leadoff single.
Hernandez was one of two players to score on Danny Espinosa's single, and Zimmerman added an infield single that Garza fielded awkwardly in front of the mound and tried to throw to first. He should've held onto it as the ball skipped past Pena for an error. Morse and Jayson Werth each hit RBI singles to make it 4-0. Rick Ankiel was safe on an error by Pena at first as the ball deflected off his face. The bases were loaded, and Wilson Ramos added a two-run double to chase Garza.
"As sharp and as impressive as [Garza] was last time, it was just not quite the same," Quade said. "It was all about command. ... He just wasn't effective."
Despite the mess, Garza didn't want to come out of the game.
"He's my kind of lunatic," Quade said. "He pitches with unbelievable passion and was furious when he came out."
Pitching coach Mark Riggins came out to talk to Garza to suggest a different approach. Garza had tried everything in the third.
"I don't know if it was a lack of execution," Garza said. "There were some pitches up that I got beat on. It's just one of those days. I haven't had one in a while, and I don't want to have them, but they happen. The guys picked me up and pulled out a 'W.'"
Garza threw a complete game against the White Sox in his last start, giving up one run, and took the loss. On Thursday, he had a bad outing, and the team won. Go figure.
It's the second-shortest outing of Garza's career; he gave up seven runs over 1 1/3 innings on June 18, 2010, against the Marlins. But the inning wasn't over. Jeff Samardzija entered and retired the next two batters before Roger Bernadina hit an RBI single. Ankiel hit an RBI double in the fourth for an 8-0 lead.
"It didn't look good," DeWitt said of the deficit. "There's no quit and you keep going. Strange things happen in this game, and tonight it happened."
It started in the sixth. The Cubs chased Hernandez after Alfonso Soriano hit an RBI single, Barney added a two-run double and DeWitt delivered a three-run, pinch-hit homer. Ramirez walked with one out in the seventh, and Pena greeted Nationals reliever Sean Burnett with his 19th homer and second in as many days off a lefty to tie the game at 8.
"A base hit is a base hit," Hernandez said. "They hit good pitches and hit them in the hole, so I can't do anything. You make a mistake and it's a home run, but I didn't make a mistake. The guy hit it good."
The Cubs were getting thin in the bullpen and had Friday's starter Rodrigo Lopez prepped just in case they needed another pitcher.
It's been a crazy first half for Garza.
"I was on the DL, battled through two months of blistering cold," Garza said. "I'm having the time of my life. What's not to smile about? I'm 27 years old, father of three and I get paid to play [a] game my 9-year-old [plays]. What's there to complain about? I'm at the highest level of my profession. I'm having a blast."
Sounds like the rest of the Cubs.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.