Edwin Jackon's performance not enough

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Edwin Jackon's performance not enough

Game in a nutshell: Edwin Jackson was brilliant, striking out 11 and carrying a shutout into the seventh inning. But Jon Niese was equally as dominant, scattering five hits without issuing a walk over 7 13 innings. In the end, this game was decided by a two-batter stretch in the top of the seventh: David Wright drew a leadoff walk, then seconds later Ike Davis sent a two-run homer into the left-field bullpen. And that was it. The Nats never managed to push a run across against Niese or a New York bullpen that boasts the majors' highest ERA (5.05). It was a surprisingly disappointing performance from a lineup that had been inflicting serious damage on opposing pitchers over the last month. And it was particularly disheartening given Jackson's fine start. Thus, the Nationals missed a chance to improve to 30 games over .500 and secure another series victory.

Hitting lowlight: They really didn't have any legitimate scoring opportunities all night, never advancing a runner to third base. But if the Nationals lineup want to look back at one moment when they might have gotten something going, they could point to the bottom of the sixth of what was still a scoreless game. Danny Espinosa led off with a little dribbler down the third-base line for an infield single. Ryan Zimmerman tagged a ball to center field, but it was tracked down by Andres Torres. Michael Morse then struck out looking for the second straight at-bat, and Adam LaRoche was robbed of a hit (maybe extra bases) by Davis, who made a nice scoop at first base. Perhaps the credit should go to Niese and the Mets, but that was a potentially wasted opportunity for the Nationals on a night in which they didn't have many to begin with.

Pitching highlight: Under normal circumstances, you'd think seven innings of two-hit, 11-strikeout ball would be good enough to earn a win. Not on this night for Jackson. The right-hander was absolutely dominant for six innings, giving up only Mike Baxter's early triple without issuing a walk. But with his teammates unable to provide any run support, Jackson entered the seventh with no margin for error. Unfortunately, he walked David Wright to open the inning, then served up a two-run homer to Davis on the very next pitch. A brilliant start by Jackson went for naught.

Key stat: A sellout crowd of 42,662 (second-largest in Nationals Park history) paid to watch pennant race baseball in the District at the same time the local NFL team was playing an exhibition game.

Up next: The series concludes with Sunday's 1:35 p.m. game at Nationals Park. Left-hander Gio Gonzalez will be seeking his league-leading 16th victory against right-hander Jeremy Hefner.

Nationals' bats can't come up with enough late in loss to Cubs

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Nationals' bats can't come up with enough late in loss to Cubs

By JAY COHEN, AP Sports Writer

CHICAGO (AP) -- Kyle Hendricks pitched six scoreless innings, Ben Zobrist drove in four runs and the Chicago Cubs beat the Washington Nationals 5-2 on Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series between two of baseball's hottest teams.

Hendricks (2-2) allowed two hits, struck out four and walked two as Chicago began a 10-game homestand with its fourth consecutive win and eighth in nine games.

Zobrist hit a two-run single in the fourth and a two-run homer in the eighth, helping the Cubs improve their major league-best record to 21-6 for their best start since they were 23-4 in 1907.

Reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper singled and walked twice against Hendricks, but the right-hander shut down the rest of Washington's lineup. Michael Taylor was stranded at second after a two-out double in the third for the Nationals' first hit.

Jayson Werth hit a long two-run homer in the ninth for Washington, which had won five of six, including a 13-2 victory at World Series champion Kansas City on Wednesday. The Nationals began the day with baseball's second-best record at 19-8.

Joe Ross (3-1) matched Hendricks for much of the chilly night, striking out nine in 6 2/3 innings. The 22-year-old right-hander allowed five hits and walked two.

One rough stretch was enough to send Ross to his first loss since Aug. 16 at San Francisco.

Chicago's first four batters in the fourth reached safely, producing two runs. Tommy La Stella singled, Kris Bryant had a ground-rule double and Anthony Rizzo was walked intentionally before Zobrist's single to right gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead.

Rizzo was thrown out trying to advance to third on Zobrist's hit, and Ross retired the next two hitters to get out of the inning. But the damage was done.

Clayton Richard and Justin Grimm combined for a perfect seventh for Chicago before Pedro Strop wriggled out of a jam in the eighth.

Zobrist connected for his third homer and Addison Russell added an RBI double in the bottom half, providing some valuable breathing room.

After Werth went deep against Travis Wood with two down, Hector Rondon retired Wilson Ramos on a liner to first for the final out.

Washington second baseman Daniel Murphy was greeted with a round of boos when he came to the plate in the second inning. It was Murphy's first game at Wrigley Field since he hit four homers while helping the New York Mets sweep the Cubs in the NL Championship Series last year.

CHANGE OF PLANS

Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward tested his sore right wrist in batting practice and was planning to return to the lineup on Friday if he felt OK. But he ended up playing center in the series opener after Dexter Fowler was ejected for arguing with home plate umpire Vic Carpazza after he struck out looking to end the third.

Heyward, who signed a $184 million, eight-year contract with Chicago during free agency, went 0 for 2 with a strikeout.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: OF Ben Revere, who is on the disabled list with a right oblique strain, rejoined the team and could be activated soon. "I'd rather wait an extra day, especially because I've seen too many guys say I'm ready and they come back and they do it again," manager Dusty Baker said. "Hopefully he doesn't injure himself again the rest of the year."

Cubs: C Miguel Montero, on the DL with lower back tightness, hit before the game and manager Joe Maddon said trainer P.J. Mainville was encouraged with his progress.

UP NEXT

Washington ace Max Scherzer (3-1, 3.35 ERA) takes on John Lackey (3-1, 4.32 ERA) in a matchup of veteran right-handers on Friday afternoon. Scherzer is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three career starts at Wrigley. Lackey needs six strikeouts to become the fifth active pitcher with at least 2,000 Ks, joining CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Felix Hernandez and Jake Peavy.

Nats open highly-anticipated series with Cubs looking to make statement

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Nats open highly-anticipated series with Cubs looking to make statement

Nationals (19-8) at Cubs (20-6)

After a successful road trip the Missouri whichs aw the Nationals best the reigning world champion Royals and the always dangerous Cardinals, they must do battle with MLB's best team: The Chicago Cubs.

The Nationals and Cubs are both considered top contenders to win the 2016 World Series, and while that is still months away, their first encounter will provide a small sampling of how the two teams stack up.

On top of that, Ben Revere, who suffered an oblique strain in the first week of the season, is expected to make his return to the roster in Chicago.

First pitch: 8:05 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, XM 869
Starting pitchers: Nats - Joe Ross vs. Cubs - Kyle Hendricks

NATIONALS

CF Michael Taylor

3B Anthony Rendon

RF Bryce Harper

1B Ryan Zimmerman

2B Daniel Murphy

LF Jayson Werth

C Wilson Ramos

SS Danny Espinosa 

RHP Joe Ross

 

CUBS

CF Dexter Fowler

3B Tommy La Stella

RF Kris Bryant

1B Anthony Rizzo

2B Ben Zobrist

LF Ryan Kalish

SS Addison Russell

C Tom, Federowicz

RHP Kyle Hendricks

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Nationals prospect report: Signs of Life

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Nationals prospect report: Signs of Life

By Cam Ellis

Last time we checked in on the farm, not a lot had changed. Trea Turner is deystroying Triple A pitching, top pitching prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez had stumbled out of the gate, and Victor Robles was putting up borderline unbelieveable numbers for an 18 year old. How did they fare this week? To the prospects! 

AAA - Syracuse

Trea Turner - SS

Update through 25 games: .309/.393/.443 with a .836 OPS. Still great numbers, but this is the second week in a row that Turner's seen his numbers drop. He's hitting .244 over his last 10 games as well. In the field, Turner's made four errors in 198 innings in the field. Maybe complacency is to blame for some of this dip, but Turner was never going to hit close to .400 all year. As is tradition with Prospect Reports about Trea Turner, here's a friendly reminder that June is close. 

 

A.J. Cole - RHP

Signs of life from Cole! On 4/28 he went six scoreless innings while allowing only four hits and striking out two. To follow that up, his next start was a five-inning, two run affiar. These are obviously steps in the right direction for Cole, who had struggled the most of any of the Nats' noteable prospects this year. It's too soon to say he's back on track, but anything's better than how he had pitched prior. 

 

Austin Voth - RHP

The great walkless streak of 2016 is over. After going four games without issuing a free pass, Voth walked three in his latest start against Pawtucket. He's still at a 26/3 strikeout/walk ratio over 23 innings, so he'll probably be fine. 

AA - Harrisburg

Lucas Giolito - RHP

In two starts since last week, Giolito has gone seven innings while allowing eight runs on 11 hits. One month of stats - especially April - is never enough to make assumptions, but it's certainly been an underwhelming month for Giolito. People who called an early season call-up for Giolito might be regretting that now. 

Reynaldo Lopez - RHP

May 3rd marked the best start of Lopez's season so far. The righty went 6.1 innings while allowing one run on three hits and striking out seven. It's an encouraging sign for a pitcher expected to make "the jump" as a legitimate prospect this season. 

Wilmer Difo - SS/2B

There's not a lot more to say about Difo's struggles to this point. He's hitting .176 this season with a .278 on-base percentage and a .490 OPS. Someone give the man a day off. It'll be interesting to see what the Nats do with Difo going forward. 

High A - Potomac

Eric Fedde - RHP

Six innings, four hits, three earned runs and six strikeouts in his last start. The strikeout to walk ratio is strong, and at this point, it's just about getting Fedde innings. The high ERA and WHIP aren't great, but there's time. 

Andrew Stevenson - OF

.368 for Stevenson over the last 10 games. He almost has as many triples (3) as doubles (5) which is a fun albeit meaningless stat. How long does he need to stick around Potomac?

Low A - Hagerstown 

Victor Robles - OF

He broke a long homerless streak when he hit one on May 2nd, and it feels a little silly to be talking about homerless streaks for an 18 year old in Low - A. He's still crushing the ball, hitting .361 over the last 10 games. In 84 at-bats, he's struck out 11 times (13%) which the Nats will take all day. 

RELATED: Nationals bounce back to blow out Royals