Things were a lot different the last time these two clubs met. For more on that and the Nationals, here’s Patrick Reddington, who runs our SB Nation Nationals site Federal Baseball.
Last time the Nationals and Cubs played (May 17-19 in D.C.), the Nats were just about to hit what a number of players on the team acknowledge was rock bottom.
After dropping two of three to the Cubs in D.C., they were swept in a four-game set with the New York Mets in Citi Field, leaving them 19-31 on the season.
Since then, however, they got healthy, got on a roll, and in the last three months they’re 51-26, they’ve moved from fourth place in the NL East (nine games back) to second in the division (six back, darn Atlanta Braves keep winning) and are atop the Wild Card standings (+1½ games).
Going into this weekend’s series in Wrigley Field, they’re absolutely mashing the ball as well (with a much better though still not great bullpen, and they’ve had consistently good starting pitching, not a jinx, even with Max Scherzer starting just once since July 6th). But it’s the run-scoring that’s been something to behold in the last couple weeks.
The Nationals, after 11-1 and 7-1 wins the last two days in PNC Park, have scored 81 runs in their last eight games (most in the majors by 23 runs), with 22 home runs over that stretch (tied with the Dodgers), eight of them in one game (against the Brewers in D.C.). It’s been quite a display.
[Insert your own “juiced” baseball quip or complaint here.]
One thing that has me concerned as I write thisthough (at 1:41 PM ET on Thursday), is that the weather forecast for the Pittsburgh area tonight is not looking great, and the finale is a 7:05 ET start in PNC, with a 1:20 CT start for the opener with the Cubs in Wrigley.
That’s a quick turnaround even with no delays (to the game or flights afterwards), so it really is going to be interesting to see what the Nats look like heading into Chicago.
Four years after he briefly pitched, and very well, down the stretch for the Cubs, Fernando Rodney is still active in the Nats bullpen. At age 42, he is the oldest active player in the major leagues, and among his teammates his rookie year (2002, Detroit) was Steve Sparks, who made his MLB debut in 1995.
Friday: Jon Lester, LHP (10-8, 4.23 ERA, 1.418 WHIP, 4.20 FIP) vs. Anibal Sanchez, RHP (7-6, 3.99 ERA, 1.381 WHIP, 4.31 FIP)
Saturday: Jose Quintana, LHP (11-7, 3.91 ERA, 1.255 WHIP, 3.70 FIP) vs. Joe Ross, RHP (3-3, 5.48 ERA, 1.587 WHIP, 4.67 FIP)
Sunday: Cole Hamels, LHP (7-4, 3.73 ERA, 1.314 WHIP, 3.88 FIP) vs. Stephen Strasburg, RHP (15-5, 3.65 ERA, 1.079 WHIP, 3.30 FIP)
(NOTE: Ross was hit in the leg — by a 110 mile per hour comebacker! — in his last start Monday and at the time it was uncertain whether he’d start Saturday. The Nats have not officially announced Ross will make this start, but this article indicates that he’s good to go. If he can’t, Erick Fedde is his likely replacement.)
Times & TV channels
Friday: 1:20 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago, MLB Network (outside Cubs and Nationals market territories)
Saturday: 1:20 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Chicago, MLB Network (outside Cubs and Nationals market territories)
Sunday: 1:20 p.m. CT, WGN, TBS (outside the Nationals market territory — should be available in the Cubs market territory)
The Cubs often get the short end of schedules where they have to play a night game on the road, then an afternoon game the next day at Wrigley. As noted above, this time it’s the Nats who have to do that — they played Thursday night in Pittsburgh and likely didn’t get to their Chicago hotel until 2 a.m Friday. The Nats actually have played better in day games this season (28-19, .596) than night games (42-38, .525).
Still, the Cubs don’t have to face Max Scherzer in this series and the pitching matchups look favorable. The Cubs will win two of three.
The Cubs have Monday off, then play a three-game series against the Mets in New York beginning Tuesday evening.
How many games will the Cubs win against the Nationals?
This poll is closed