Chicago’s Willson Contreras admires his sixth inning two run home run off of Washington’s Matt Grace in the Cubs 7-4 victory over the Nationals on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
Nationals’ Record- 64-44, first place in the National League East, 13 games ahead of Miami
Chicago Cubs 7 Nationals 4
WP- Lackey (9-9) LP- Jackson (2-2) SV- W. Davis (23)
HR- Harper Was (28), Avila Chc (12), Contreras Chc (19)
As was the case with Friday afternoon’s game, there was a playoff atmosphere at Wrigley Field yesterday as the Nationals and Cubs squared off in game two of their weekend series. This time it was the Cubs who emerged victorious, riding the wave of a four run first inning and holding late threats by the Nats to earn a 7-4 victory.
STARS OF THE GAME
On a team with popular superstars such as Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant and established veterans such as Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward, it is easy for some of the team’s younger players to get lost in the shuffle. If talented Willson Contreras keeps playing like he’s been recently, that is not going to be possible. Contreras drove in three runs, including two on a laser shot home run in the bottom of the sixth, to pace the Chicago attack. Since the all-star break, Contreras 27 RBI match Colorado’s Nolan Arenado for the most in the Major Leagues.
Contreras played left field in yesterday’s game because Joe Maddon had new Cub Alex Avila start behind the plate. The veteran backstop made his start count, hitting a two run first inning home run off of Washington’s Edwin Jackson to give the Cubbies a 4-1 lead.
STRONG IN DEFEAT
Nats’ left-handed reliever Sammy Solis was a valuable asset out of Washington’s bullpen in 2016, posting a solid 1.1 WAR on the year. Things have not gone as well for the 6’5″ Minnesota native so far in 2017, but he did a superb job in yesterday’s contest. Solis threw 1.2 scoreless innings with four strikeouts, punching out Rizzo and Contreras to leave two Cubs stranded in the seventh inning and fanning Zobrist and Heyward in a one-two-three eighth.
After allowing four runs on five hits in the first inning, Washington starter Edwin Jackson settled down nicely over his final four innings of work. From innings two through five, Jackson allowed no runs on only one hit while striking out seven Cubs.
On Saturday, Bryce Harper demonstrated some of the skills that make him one of the Major League’s best players. He hit a long solo home run off of Cubs’ starter John Lackey in the top of the first, giving him a Major League best 12 first inning home runs this year. In the bottom of the frame, Harper threw a laser from right field to cut down Contreras at third base. Harper displayed his range in right in the bottom of the fifth, robbing Jon Jay of a potential extra base hit with a running catch at the wall in right center.
On a team with numerous offensive stalwarts, Washington’s Jose Lobaton is not expected to provide much at the plate. Since the all-star break however, Lobaton has picked his game up somewhat. The affable backstop worked a ninth inning walk off of Cubs’ closer Wade Davis in the top of the ninth to keep Washington’s hopes alive, and moved his post-break OPS to .876 in the process. Before the break, Lobaton’s OPS was an anemic .437.
Both Matt Grace and Matt Albers gave up runs out of the bullpen in yesterday’s game, continuing a trend that has seen the relievers get roughed up in recent outings. Grace was touched for two runs in the game, giving him 10 runs allowed in his last nine innings pitched since July 23rd. The Cubs touched Albers for a single run, and the stout righty has now allowed seven hits, three runs and two walks over his last three appearances.
Sunday’s contest is the rubber game in the seven game regular season series between the two division leading teams. The Cubs go with veteran left-handed ace Jon Lester, who has a 3-0 record with a 2.77 ERA and a .769 WHIP in his three post-All Star game starts. Washington’s Matt Wieters has had success (.327 average, four extra hits in 49 at bats) against Lester in the past, but Ryan Zimmerman (2-14, four strikeouts), Daniel Murphy (2-11) and Howie Kendrick (8-46, nine strikeouts) have not.
Rookie Erick Fedde looks for his first Major League win today. Last Sunday, Fedde gave up 10 hits and seven runs as the Nats fell at home to Colorado.