Chicago swept the four-game series with Washington in Wrigley Field back in early May, but Nats' skipper Dusty Baker told reporters this afternoon that he didn't necessarily see the rematch with the Cubs this week in D.C. as a "measuring stick" for the NL East-leading Nationals.
"Why do I have to measure against them?" Baker asked. "They're the best right now in our league, but I don't believe in that, I believe in measuring against yourself. How can we get better?"
Washington entered the series 39-24. Chicago started the three-game set 43-18.
So how was Baker approaching the series then?
"I approach this series with a positive attitude and thinking about winning and no negatives," he said.
"Cause everything that could go wrong in Chicago went wrong for us ... and everything that could go right for Chicago went right for them. But you can't bring it back, so there's nothing you can do about that.
"The only thing you can do is go forward. You can give them the pennant right now if you want to. It's up to you. But we've still got to play."
In the first game of three in D.C., Nationals' starter Max Scherzer came out dealing, striking out eight of the first nine batters he faced in three hitless innings against a Cubs' team that collected seven runs on seven hits and four home runs when the two teams played in the so-called Windy City.
By the time he took the mound for the fourth, Scherzer had a lead to work with after Jayson Werth walked and scored from first on a Bryce Harper single to center field, sliding in hard on a close play at third and scoring when the ball got away from Cubs' third baseman Kris Bryant. 1-0.
Scherzer collected another strikeout in the top of the fourth, retiring the side in order in a 13-pitch frame that left him at 53 pitches overall, with nine strikeouts. He set the Cubs down in order in the fifth as well, giving him 15 straight outs to start the game.
With one out in the sixth, however, Scherzer's bid for perfection ended when Addison Russell hit a 3-2 slider out to left for a solo home run that tied things up at 1-1... on Chicago's first hit of the game.
It wasn't tied for long as Wilson Ramos hit the second pitch of the Nats' sixth out to right for an opposite field blast off Cubs' starter Kyle Hendricks. 2-1 Nationals. No. 10 for Ramos. Anthony Rendon doubled to left in the next at bat (No. 15) and scored on an RBI single to left by Danny Espinosa, 3-1.
Justin Grimm replaced Hendricks with one out and Espinosa on third, after a sac bunt by Scherzer, and Ben Revere drove in the Nats' fourth run with a low liner to right that Jason Heyward couldn't reach, 4-1.
• Max Scherzer's Line: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 Ks, 1 HR, 96 P, 63 S, 5/2 GO/FO.
Oliver Perez took over on the mound in the eighth and struck Javier Baez before handing it over to Shawn Kelley, who struck out the next two batters to keep it 4-1 through seven and a half.
With a three-run lead after eight, Kelley came back out and retired the Cubs in order. Ballgame. 4-1 Nats.
Nationals now 40-24
- Chicago started this week's three-game series in D.C. with wins in 14 of their last 18 games, a major league-best 43-18 record overall and a six-game win streak against the Washington Nationals.
- Washington started the series with wins in 10 of their last 13 and the second-best record in the National League and third-best in the majors behind Chicago and tied with the Texas Rangers.
- Chicago's 43-18 start is the team's best through 61 games since 1918.
- In today's Cubs-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment: Chicago started the series 30-10 in their last 40 games on the road, going back to last September 15th.
- Chicago's rotation as the series started, had four of the Top 5 major league pitches in WHIP... with John Lackey (0.93), Kyle Hendricks (0.94), Jon Lester (0.95) and Jake Arrieta (0.95) ranked 2-5 behind Dodgers' lefty Clayton Kershaw (0.65 WHIP).
- Cubs' starters began the series with an streak of 16-straight games in which they'd allowed three runs or less, with a 1.52 ERA in 106 ⅔ IP over that stretch.
- Nationals' pitchers started the night with the MLB-lead in strikeouts (600) and K/9 (9.50).
- Nationals' hitters started the series with an MLB-leading 86 home runs, and the second-best run differential in the National League (+76), behind only the Chicago Cubs (+162 run differential).
- Cubs' first baseman Anthony Rizzo started the series with a season-high nine-game win streak, the longest active streak in the National League. He extended it to 10 games with two-out double in the seventh.
- Cubs' third baseman Kris Bryant started the series with an NL-leading 47 runs scored.
- Danny Espinosa's home run on Sunday was his 11th of the season and his eighth in the last 15 games.
- Daniel Murphy started the series with an MLB-leading .369 AVG, the second-most multi-hit games (28), second-highest OPS (1.018) and second-highest slugging percentage (.609 SLG).
Nationals now 40-24