The Cubs looked to snap a short three-game losing streak and stay in first place Saturday against the Nationals. Thanks to a big opening inning and some clutch relief pitching, they were able to do just that.
John Lackey retired the first two men in the top of the 1st inning before Bryce Harper took him deep to right for a solo homer.
The Nationals lead did not last long, the Cubs jumped all over former teammate Edwin Jackson in the bottom of the inning. Jon Jay and Kris Bryant hit back-to-back doubles to tie the game at one. Left fielder Willson Contreras reached on an infield single to score Bryant and give the Cubs a one-run lead. Ben Zobrist then singled and Contreras got gunned down by Harper as he was trying to go first-to-third on the play. Alex Avila struck the big blow, a two-run dinger to center field to give Chicago a 4-1 advantage.
Washington staged a rally in the 4th inning off of Lackey. Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy hit ground ball singles to put men at the corners. Anthony Rendon hit a sacrifice fly to score Zimmerman, who got hit in the back by Contreras’ throw home. As the ball deflected off Zimmerman, Murphy was able to advance to second base. Matt Wieters singled Murphy home to cut the lead to 4-3.
Jackson pitched very well after the opening inning, allowing only one hit and striking out eight. Matt Grace relieved him in the 6th and was greeted rudely. Anthony Rizzo singled and would come home when Contreras mashed a long bomb to left to put the Cubs up 6-3.
In the bottom of the 7th, pinch-hitter Ian Happ took a walk and advanced to third on a steal and throwing error by catcher Jose Lobaton. Jon Jay singled up the middle to score Happ and make it a 7-3 Cubs lead.
Justin Wilson struggled a bit in the top of the 8th inning, allowing Harper and Zimmerman to reach on a single and a walk. Certainly not a terrible outcome when considering the alternatives. Harper scored on a bad throw by Javy Baez as he attempted to turn a double play. Wilson got a groundout to end the inning and limit the damage.
Wade Davis entered to get the save in the 9th and walked two batters, bringing the tying run to the plate. Davis locked in and struck out Wilmer Difo and Harper to preserve the 7-4 win.
Stats that matter
- John Lackey got the job done and kept a dangerous Nats lineup mostly in check: 5 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 6 H, 3 K, and 1 BB.
- Willson Contreras keeps delivering in big spots for the Cubs – 2-for-4, 1 R, 3 RBI, HR
- Jon Jay just continues to rake – 2-for-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2B
The Cubs were ahead almost the entire game but the lead never felt secure with the Nationals dangerous lineup. Chicago was able to fight through some adversity and get the win. It was good to stop the three-game skid and hopefully the Cubs can put the series away on Sunday.
The rubber game is on Sunday afternoon at 1:20 pm CT. Jon Lester takes on young Erick Fedde, the game will be televised on TBS (out of market) and CSN-C.