|4:15 PM PT5:15 PM MT6:15 PM CT7:15 PM ET19:15 ET23:15 GMT7:15 4:15 PM MST6:15 PM EST6:45 PM VEN3:15 UAE (+1)6:15 PM CT, May 18, 2019
Nationals Park, Washington, District of Columbia Attendance: 37,582
Lester to face Strasburg as Cubs visit Nationals
Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals
- Since June 2016, and including postseason, the head-to-head series is tied at 11 wins apiece, with neither team winning as many as three games in a row over the other. The run-scoring in those 22 games is not close, however, as Washington has outscored Chicago, 108-83.
- The Cubs' last three games and four of their last five have been decided by one or two runs. The team's losses at Cincinnati on Tuesday (in 10 innings) and Wednesday were the North Siders' first back-to-back defeats since April 25 and 26; they last lost three straight games March 30 -- April 5 (six straight).
- At 18-25, the Nationals have the exact opposite record from this time last season (25-18). Washington lost only seven games in May 2018 (20-7) but has already surpassed that number with a 6-9 mark this month. The team has not had a sub-.500 May since 2014.
- Kris Bryant's current streak of reaching base via hit, walk or hit by pitch in 25 straight game is the longest active streak in MLB. Bryant ranks second in the NL in runs scored this month (15, trailing Eric Thames' 17) and is tied for second in walks (14).
- Juan Soto has only two RBI since April 29, having spent the first 10 days of May on the injured list -- yet he leads the Nats with 24 RBI this season. Soto has a .209 average and no home runs with the bases empty, compared to .250 and six homers with runners on.
- Max Scherzer has 30 more strikeouts than Cole Hamels this season, 79-49, yet Hamels has a 3.08 ERA while Scherzer's is 3.64. Opponents are hitting .240 on balls in play versus Hamels, compared to .363 -- highest against any NL qualifier -- off Scherzer.
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The Chicago Cubs broke out the bats in Washington on Friday, and they'll have their best pitcher on the mound Saturday night when they attempt to clinch the series against the host Nationals.
The Cubs used 18 hits -- six of them home runs -- to demolish Washington 14-6 at Nationals Park.
If Saturday's game is anything like Friday's, Chicago will need a mere pedestrian start by ace Jon Lester to win the middle game of the series.
Kris Bryant matched his career high with three homers on Friday -- all in the final three innings.
His five RBIs led the team, and he and teammate Willson Contreras each pounded out four hits as the Cubs dismantled the Nationals' bullpen after putting up three runs on three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer in the first six innings.
Lester (3-1, 1.16) has been a mainstay in the Cubs' success in the early part of 2019.
Lester, 35, hasn't given up an earned run in his last three outings, a span totaling 19 2/3 innings. He has allowed 18 hits but has also fanned 20 batters.
On Thursday, Cubs manager Joe Maddon watched his team lose to Cincinnati staff ace Luis Castillo, whose changeup has baffled hitters in what appears to be an All-Star season for the 26-year-old Dominican right-hander.
Maddon's club is in the middle of a tough stretch facing formidable pitchers like Castillo, Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Jake Arrieta.
"You have to beat good pitching," said Maddon. "We have to pitch ... but you've got to pitch better than good pitching. That's what we've got to do. We're not going to just bludgeon anybody that we're facing.
"We're facing too many good pitchers."
The pitcher opposite Lester on Saturday is Strasburg (3-3, 3.63), who has found his groove after an inconsistent start to 2019.
Over his last five starts dating back to April 21 in Miami -- his best outing this season -- Strasburg is 2-2 with a 2.36 ERA, working 34 1/3 innings, allowing 22 hits and posting 47 strikeouts and just nine walks.
The Nationals have also been buoyed by the play of Venezuelan outfielder Gerardo Parra, who was designated for assignment on May 3 by San Francisco after batting just .198 for the Giants.
However, the outfielder has had an immediate impact since being acquired by the Nationals on May 9.
In his six games with Washington, Parra has come to the rescue twice, making key contributions by hitting a grand slam against the Dodgers and going 3 for 3 with a homer and three RBIs against the Mets -- both wins in the last seven days.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez likes the veteran presence of Parra, 32, and said the club was lucky to get him.
"He's been tremendous. He's a veteran guy who's played awhile," said Martinez. "He's very vocal in the clubhouse, too, which I like, and on the bench -- with everybody, but especially Latin players.
"He's been really good and come up with some big hits. He's a big part of our success the last few days."
--Field Level Media
Updated May 18, 2019