The Washington Nationals have ridden the talents of their prolific offensive stars all season, and that was no different Wednesday as Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon powered the Nats to a 6-2 win over the Chicago Cubs.
The Nats and Cubs entered the contest with a 41-41 split in the 82 games played between the two teams since baseball returned to the District in 2005, so something had to give.
That something would be John Lackey, who gave up six earned runs before he could even pick up nine outs in the ballgame — and he wasn’t done there.
Harper doubled, scored and drove in a run all in the first two innings, while Rendon and Matt Wieters went yard in back-to-back at-bats in the second.
Stephen Strasburg took the hill for Washington and gave up a two-run shot to Wilson Contreras in the fourth, but he was able to limit Chicago to three runs in seven innings of work.
The Nats added an insurance run in the fifth when Daniel Murphy launched his 14th home run of the year, a solo shot to right.
Later in the inning, Kris Bryant twisted his ankle while catching a routine pop up at third base and was forced to leave the game.
Harper drove in Washington’s eighth run of the night with a double off reliever Brian Duensing in the sixth.
Enny Romero allowed a long home run to Anthony Rizzo in the eighth, but it proved to be too little too late as Matt Albers pitched a scoreless ninth and put the Nats in position to take the series with a victory Thursday.
Nationals now 47-31.
Here’s how it happened:
• Bryce Harper laced a two-out double in the bottom of the first into the gap in right-center to give the Nationals their first baserunner of the evening. Next man up Ryan Zimmerman promptly singled to left and gave Washington an early 1-0 lead.
• The Nats tacked on four more runs in the second, and they didn’t wait long to get things started. Anthony Rendon led off the inning with a home run into the left field seats. Fans barely had any time to get settled back in their seats before Matt Wieters hit a solo shot of his own to straightaway center.
Later in the inning, back-to-back singles by Stephen Strasburg and Trea Turner were followed by a Brian Goodwin walk that loaded the bases with one out for Harper. The right fielder worked a walk that brought Strasburg in to score.
Zimmerman then came to the plate and hit a grounder straight at third baseman Kris Bryant that took a tough bounce. Bryant was unable to glove it at first and his throw was not in time to get Zimmerman, leaving everyone safe and pushing another run across to make it 5-0 Nats.
• Rendon led off the frame again in the third, this time doubling off the wall in center. He moved to third when Wieters grounded out to the right side of the infield and then scored on a Michael Taylor sacrifice fly. 6-0 Washington.
• Strasburg cruised through his first three innings before running into Wilson Contreras in the top of the fourth. Bryant doubled to lead off the inning, then scored when Contreras jacked a bomb to left to make it a 6-2 game.
• In the next inning the Cubs scratched an unearned run across thanks to Zimmerman’s ninth error of the year. Albert Almora Jr. hit a leadoff double, then scored when Zimmerman couldn’t handle a grounder up the first base line and forced the ball to roll into foul territory. 6-3 Nats.
• Remember that Daniel Murphy guy? He didn’t play a role in any of the Nats’ early offense, but he made up for it with a one-out homer in the bottom of the fifth that pushed the Nats’ lead up to 7-3.
Later that inning, Wieters hit a pop up on the left side of the infield that Bryant was able to track down and catch. When he made the catch, however, the reigning NL MVP landed on his ankle awkwardly while stepping on the third base bag. He tried to walk it off, but ultimately had to be helped off the field and was replaced by Jeimer Candelario at third.
• The next inning, Turner hit a double down the left field line to knock Lackey out of the game. Brian Duensing entered the game and was able to strike out Brian Goodwin, but gave up a screamer to Harper that bounced off his glove and into right field. Harper stretched the hit into a hustle double and Washington took an 8-3 lead.
• John Lackey’s Line: 5.1 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 2 Ks, 3 HRs, 92 P, 54 S, 5/5 GO/FO
• Strasburg didn’t let the error faze him, retiring the final eight hitters he faced. He was able to keep a low pitch count the entire evening and handed things over to the bullpen with only six outs left to get.
• Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 13 Ks, 1 HR, 96 P, 70 S, 5/2 GO/FO
• Dusty Baker went to Enny Romero for the eighth inning. He was pumping triple-digit fastballs the entire frame, but made a mistake to Anthony Rizzo with one out. Rizzo took full advantage, crushing the fastball into the upper deck in right field to get a run back for the Cubs. 8-4 Nats.
• The ninth inning pitched a scoreless ninth in which he allowed just one walk and the Nats took the third game of their four-game slate with Chicago in impressive fashion. Washington will go for a series win Thursday.