Chicago’s Cubs have been hitting the ball out of the yard fairly consistently recently, with 48 home runs over the last month-plus, leading the NL in homers since July 1st, and their catcher, Wilson Contreras, started the second of three with the Washington Nationals in Wrigley Field with the second-most HRs amongst major league catchers.
Alex Avila and Contreras added to those totals, with the new Cubs’ catcher’s two-run blast in the first putting the home team up 4-1, and Contreras took Nats’ left-hander Matt Grace deep in the bottom of the sixth for his 19th of 2017, a two-run blast that made it a 6-3 game after the Nats rallied to get within one.
John Lackey and Edwin Jackson, today’s starters, were both out after five innings, and the Cubs’ bullpen held the Nationals mostly in check the rest of the way, giving up just one run as Chicago took the second of three, 7-4, setting up a rubber match in the Windy City tomorrow.
Nationals now 64-44
HERE’S HOW IT HAPPENED:
• John Lackey retired the first two batters he faced in the first, but Bryce Harper hit a 93 mph 1-2 fastball to right that bounced off the bottom of the big scoreboard out in Wrigley Field to make it 1-0 Nats. Harper’s 28th of 2017.
When @BHarper3407 swings like this, you just KNOW. pic.twitter.com/XccY6ufqfr— MLB (@MLB) August 5, 2017
Lackey, who had the second-most home runs allowed among NL pitchers heading into today’s start, gave up three in D.C. when he faced the Nationals back in late June, with Anthony Rendon, Matt Wieters, and Daniel Murphy taking him deep in that outing.
• Jon Jay and Kris Bryant greeted Edwin Jackson with back-to-back doubles (to left and center, respectively) with Bryant’s driving in the tying run, 1-1.
Bryant scored on a weak chopper off Willson Contreras’s bat that died in the infield grass, 2-1, but Contreras got thrown out at third on a Ben Zobrist liner to right when Bryce Harper threw a one-hop strike to Anthony Rendon. The 9-5 putout meant that Alex Avila’s home run to center in the next at bat was only a two-run blast, 4-1 Cubs.
Bake him away, toys. pic.twitter.com/D03q1ny1Uf— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 5, 2017
• Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy hit back-to-back singles in the top of the fourth, with Zimmerman taking third on Murphy’s hit, and a sac fly to left by Anthony Rendon scored Zimmerman to cut into the Cubs’ lead, 4-2.
Matt Wieters (2 for 2) sent a two-out RBI single to center to bring Murphy in from second, 4-3.
• Edwin Jackson retired 10-straight after Alex Avila’s two-out, two-run home run in the first, to finish up four innings on 79 pitches overall. His streak of retired batters ended there, when Javier Baez singled to start the fifth.
Baez stole second with Kyle Schwarber at the plate, and took third on a fly to right by Jon Jay, but he was stranded there when Jackson struck Kris Bryant out on a 3-2 slider, collecting his 8th K on his 101st pitch.
• John Lackey’s Line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 1 HR, 95 P, 59 S, 4/3 GO/FO.
• Edwin Jackson’s Line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 8 Ks, 1 HR, 101 P, 63 S, 3/1 GO/FO.
• Matt Grace took over in the bottom of the sixth inning, after Cubs’ left-hander Brian Duensing tossed a 1-2-3 top of the sixth, and Grace gave up a leadoff single to right by Anthony Rizzo and a two-run home run to left by Willson Contreras on the next pitch, 6-3 Cubbies.
District of Contreras. pic.twitter.com/Zz2SI9bk7N— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 5, 2017
• Matt Wieters somehow got himself ejected, apparently for arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Chad Whitson after the Cubs’ sixth came to an end.
• Pedro Strop retired the Nationals in order in a 21-pitch seventh. Ian Happ took a one-out walk from Matt Albers in the Cubs’ seventh, then stole second and took third on a throwing error by new catcher Jose Lobaton. Jon Jay followed with an RBI single, 7-3 Cubbies.
• Justin Wilson gave up a single by Bryce Harper, and walked Ryan Zimmerman in the first two at bats of the Nats’ half of the eighth, and Harper scored one out later on a potential DP grounder to second off Anthony Rendon’s bat, when Javier Baez threw the 6-3 part of a potential 4-6-3 by first base, 7-4 Cubs.
• Sammy Solis retired the side in order in the Cubs’ half of the eighth, but Wade Davis locked down the ninth (after issuing back-to-back, one-out walks).
Final Score: 7-4 Cubbies.
NATIONALS PREGAME NOTES:
- Chicago’s loss in the series opener with Washington was their third straight overall, leaving them 0.5-game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central heading into play today, though they’ve gone from 5.5-games back to 0.5-game up since the start of the so-called second-half.
- Friday’s 4-2 loss to the Nationals left the Cubs (26-26) in games decided by two runs or fewer this season.
- Wilson Contreras had hit 18 HRs on the season heading into play today, the most hit by any NL catcher, and second-most among all MLB backstops, behind only Kansas City Royals’ catcher Salvador Perez (21).
- In today’s Cubs-themed “Fun with Arbitrary End Points” segment: Chicago leads the N.L. and ranks third in the majors with 48 home runs... since July 1st, behind only the Texas Rangers (49) and Houston Astros (52) over that stretch.
- Coming out of the All-Star Break, Cubs’ starters have put up a 3.03 ERA (40 ER in 119 IP) while going (11-3) as a group and holding opposing hitters to a .201 BAA against in 20 games.
- Washington knocked John Lackey around in his start in D.C. in late June, but coming in to today’s outing, the veteran right-hander had allowed three or fewer earned runs in four-straight starts and in six of his last seven overall.
Nationals now 64-44