Dusty Baker pointed to Max Scherzer's ability to locate his fastball last time out as the key to the 31-year-old right-hander's success over seven scoreless innings on the mound against the St. Louis Cardinals.
"That opens up everything," Baker explained. "It's location, location, location and when you're throwing 95-96, then the advantage is yours, big time.
"And when you're not locating the fastball, it's doesn't open up anything. If you're locating you fastball it opens up your breaking ball and your offspeed and everything because everything is designed to look like a fastball."
"That's the best I've seen Max this year," Baker noted.
Scherzer took the mound with a 1-0 lead courtesy of a solo home run by Anthony Rendon, who hit a 3-2 fastball from John Lackey out to left for a one-out blast in the top of the first.
Scherzer helped his own cause with a two-out RBI single to right in the second that drove Daniel Murphy in from third after Murphy doubled to center and took third on an infield single by Wilson Ramos. 2-0.
The Cubs tied it up in the bottom of the second, however, when third baseman Tommy La Stella hit a first-pitch fastball out to left immediately after Scherzer issued a leadoff walk to Ben Zobrist. 2-2.
Anthony Rizzo hit an 0-1 fastball way inside out to right for a two-out solo shot in the third that put the Cubs up, 3-2. It appeared to hit the flag on the foul pole in right, but after review was upheld as a homer.
Ben Zobrist followed with the second straight homer on a 1-1 change from Scherzer to put Chicago up, 4-2.
Zobrist's home run was the third of the game and the eighth Scherzer has allowed in 41 IP this season. He went 123+ innings before he allowed his eighth last year.
Zobrist got Scherzer again in the fifth, taking a first-pitch fastball to right after a double by Jason Heyward and a two-out walk to Kris Bryant. 7-2 Cubs.
Max Scherzer's Line: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 7 Ks, 4 HRs, 96 P, 61 S, 4/1 GO/FO.
Blake Treinen gave up a double by David Ross and an RBI single by Dexter Fowler in a quick sixth inning, 8-2 Cubs.
Oliver Perez worked a scoreless seventh.
John Lackey's Line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 11 Ks, 111 P, 75 S, 4/2 GO/FO.
Bryce Harper walked and Daniel Murphy collected his 4th hit in four at bats with Clayton Richard on the mound in the top of the eighth, and Jayson Werth hit a two-run double off Justin Grimm. 8-4 Cubs. Wilson Ramos followed with a two-run blast to left that got the Nationals within two, 8-6.
That's as close as the Nationals got. Two straight losses in Wrigley. Two more to play in Chicago.
Nationals now 19-10
• NATS NOTES:
- Chicago's win last night left them 21-6 on the year (.778 win%). Washington's loss left them 19-9 (.679 win%). The Cubs and Nationals are 1-2 in the majors with the best records in baseball.
- The Cubs' win left them 8-3 at home in Wrigley Field this season. They've played the fewest home games in the majors thus far, though the four-game set with the Nationals is part of a ten-game homestand.
- The Cubs' 21-6 start is the best record after 27 games in franchise history since the 1907 Chicago Cubs started 23-4.
- The Nationals' 19-9 recored is the best start in Nationals/Expos franchise history and it matches the 1925, 1930 and 1932 Senatos for the best start through 28 games in D.C. baseball history.
- Updating the Cubs' run differential madness: Chicago started the day at +96 in run differential, outscoring opponents 164-68, which was the best run differential in the majors and was tied for the second-highest run differential after 27 games by any major league team since 1900 with the 1939 New York Yankees, behind only the 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates' +111 run differential in 1902.
- Ben Revere returned to the top of the Nationals' batting order today, after missing 27 games with a strained oblique.
- Jayson Werth's home run last night was his 1,300th career hit, making him the seventh player to reach that milestone in a Nationals uniform along with Dmitri Young, Cristian Guzman, Ronnie Belliard, Adam Kennedy, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche.
- Chicago has averaged 6.07 runs per game so far this season, the highest total in the majors thus far.
- In today's Cubs-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment: Chicago is 22-3 in their last 25 home games dating back to September 15, 2015.
- In today's Nationals-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment: Washington is 17-11 and 5-2-1 in series play with the Cubs... since the start of the 2012 season.
- In a bonus Nats-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment, Jayson Werth is 9 for 29 (.310 AVG) with a double, three home runs and seven runs scored in his last eight games.
- Daniel Murphy's six-game hit streak ended last night, but he's 12 for 29 over his last seven games with three doubles and two home runs and he's hit safely in 23 of 27 games this season with multi-hit games in 13 of 27.
Nationals now 19-10