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Washington Nationals win 9-3 over Chicago Cubs: Aníbal Sánchez dominates in the first of three in Wrigley

Aníbal Sánchez dominated the Cubs in what ended up a 9-3 win for the Nationals in the series opener in Wrigley Field...

MLB: Washington Nationals at Chicago Cubs Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Aníbal Sánchez was just two outs away from a complete game shutout when a throwing error by Anthony Rendon allowed Chicago’s first run to score in what ended up a 9-3 win over the Cubs for Washington’s Nationals in Wrigley Field.

Sánchez vs the Cubs: Aníbal Sánchez’s 2-year/$19M deal with the Nationals didn’t get off to a great start, with the 35-year-old, 14-year-old veteran winless in his first eight outings (0-6), with a 5.27 ERA, 24 walks, 39 Ks, and a .265/.354/.471 line against in 41 IP, but he hasn’t lost since his eighth start.

Sánchez was lifted from a May 16th outing after just 1 13 IP against the New York Mets, and he went on the IL with a hamstring injury, but returned to the Nats’ rotation 13 days later as a different pitcher. Well, the same pitcher, but with different results.

In his last 15 starts (including the one against NY), Sánchez was unbeaten going into today’s matchup with the Chicago Cubs, with a 3.35 ERA, 22 walks, 65 Ks, and a .244/.299/.381 line against in his last 80 23 IP.

Sánchez held the Cubs to one walk the first time through, completing three scoreless and hitless innings on 43 pitches as the Nationals jumped out to a 2-0 lead, and they added another pair of runs in the top of the fourth before he came back out with a 4-0 lead and gave up his first hit, a one-out single by Nick Castellanos, but a popped up bunt by Kris Bryant, and a swinging K on a filthy change to Anthony Rizzo got the Nats’ right-hander through his fourth scoreless frame on 57 pitches.

It was 7-0 Nationals when Sánchez returned to the mound in the fifth and retired the Cubs in order in a ten-pitch frame that left him at 67 pitches, and he retired the side in the sixth as well, in a nine-pitch inning.

Sánchez’s 15-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh left him at 91 pitches, and he came back out for the home-half of the eighth with another 1-2-3 frame that gave him 14-straight batters set down and a total of eight scoreless on 98 pitches.

A leadoff walk to Tony Kemp in the Cubs’ ninth ended Sánchez’s streak of retired batters, and one out later, Anthony Rendon misfired on a throw to first base, sailing it over Howie Kendrick, allowing the first run of the game to score for Chicago...

That was it for Sánchez.

Aníbal Sánchez’s Line: 8.1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 112 P, 76 S, 12/4 GO/FO.

Lester vs the Nationals: Jon Lester’s first outing against the Nationals this season didn’t go too well for the left-hander, who gave up 10 hits and five runs in just 4 13 IP in Washington, D.C.

Going into his second start of the season against the Nats, however, Lester was coming off a strong start against the Pittsburgh Pirates, which saw him toss six scoreless in a 2-0 game in which he earned a W, snapping a five-start winless streak over which he had a 7.00 ERA in 27 innings with opposing hitters putting up a .339/.383/.508 line against him.

Lester fell behind early this afternoon when Adam Eaton hit a 2-2 changeup out to right for his 12th home run of the season and fifth in the last nine games, 1-0, and the Nationals put another run up on the southpaw in the third, with Victor Robles singling, stealing second, moving up on a sac bunt, and scoring on a sac fly by Trea Turner.

Three straight one-out singles, by Juan Soto, Howie Kendrick, and Kurt Suzuki, made it a 3-0 game in the fourth, with Suzuki bringing Soto in from third with his hit.

A two-out walk to Victor Robles loaded the bases up later in the fourth, and Aníbal Sánchez dropped a perfect bunt down the third base line that rolled to a stop just inside the paint to bring in the fourth run of the game, 4-0. Lester was up to 85 pitches total after he got out of a 42-pitch fourth.

And Lester was up to 95 pitches after back-to-back singles in the fifth, and the Cubs went to the pen at that point...

Jon Lester’s Line: 4.1 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 2 Ks, 1 HR, 95 P, 59 S, 4/3 GO/FO.

Adam Eaton coming back with power-POWER: Adam Eaton hit seven home runs in his first 503 plate appearances this season, but his home run this afternoon in Wrigley Field was his fifth in his last 43 PAs.

Turn-On: Trea Turner extended his career-best 29-game on-base streak with a double in his first trip to the plate. He went 2 for 5 on the night in the finale in PNC Park, leaving him with a .336 AVG, a .400 OBP, a .544 SLG, six doubles, a triple, six home runs, and 13 walks in 140 plate appearances.

Turner was hitless (with a sac fly) through six, but he shot a hard-hit grounder off Kris Bryan at third base for a single in the eighth to extend his streak to 30-straight games.

BULLPEN ACTION: Pedro Strop came on for the Cubs with runners on first and second and one out in the top of the fifth inning, after Jon Lester gave up back-to-back one-out singles by Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto, and he struck Howie Kendrick out before hitting Kurt Suzuki to load them up with two down. Brian Dozier stepped in and a wild pitch on the first offering allowed Rendon to score, 5-0.

Dozier walked to load them back up, and Victor Robles dumped a two-run double into short right field to make it a 7-0 game.

Tyler Chatwood took over for Chicago in the sixth, and retired the Nationals in order for the first time today.

David Phelps gave up a home run to center on a 3-2 cutter inside that Juan Soto powered out for his 29th blast of the season and an 8-0 Nationals’ lead in the top of the seventh.

Steve Cisek tossed a scoreless top of the eighth.

Derek Holland walked Juan Soto to start the top of the ninth and Soto scored to make it 9-0 on a fly to right-center that fell in for an RBI double.

Matt Grace took over for Aníbal Sánchez after the Cubs’ first run of the game scored with one out in the ninth, and gave up an RBI double, but got the final outs of the inning, after the home team’s third run scored on a grounder up the middle that Brian Dozier couldn’t handle.

It ended up a 9-3 win. Ballgame.

Nationals now 71-57