Postgame analysis of the Nats' 8-6 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field:
How it happened: After the Nats enjoyed a brief 2-0 lead highlighted by a first-inning solo home run by Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer's homer problem reared its ugly head once again.
The barrage began in the second inning when Tommy La Stella took Scherzer deep to tie it up at 2-2. Two innings later, the 31-year-old right hander allowed back-to-back solo shots to Anthony Rizzo and Nats-killer Ben Zobrist. It got worse as Zobrist hit his second of the day, this time a three-run homer, making it 7-2 Cubs and essentially ending Scherzer's outing.
The Nats wouldn't go away, however, putting together a four-run rally in the eighth thanks to a two-run double by Jayson Werth and a two-run home run by Wilson Ramos. But like Thursday night's loss, it was too little, too late.
What it means: The Cubs are good. Really, really good. The Nats, while off to a solid start themselves, aren't yet in the class of the North Siders, whose run differential now sits at a ridiculous +98. With Washington dropping the first two games of this marquee series, it is now 5-3 on this 10-game road trip.
Scherzer gets roughed up: The Nats' $200 million man turned in his worst start of the season against the Cubs — and perhaps the worst start of his tenure in D.C. Scherzer's home run issues continued Friday afternoon, as he yielded four long balls —tied for his career-high in a single start — en route to allowing seven earned runs over five innings.
Scherzer's struggles have gotten to the point where it's hard to ignore that something's just not right. For one, Friday's outing represented the most runs he'd allowed since joining the Nats in 2015. Secondly, he now leads the majors in home runs allowed with nine. And if that isn't enough, he's also having trouble with the strike zone: He's already issued 15 walks in his first seven starts, nearly half of last season's total of 34.
Murphy's back at it again: The silver lining in Friday's tough loss is that Daniel Murphy is continuing his scortching start to the season. After going hitless Thursday night, the Nats second baseman rebounded big time by going 4-for-4 on the afternoon to raise his batting average to an MLB-leading .406. It feels like this can't last all season, but a month into the season, he hasn't found himself in anything remotely resembling a slump. It's unlikely that Murphy's the next incarnation of Ted Williams, but it's safe to say the Nats may have gotten a bargain when they signed him last winter at three years, $37.5 million.
What's next: The Nats will hope the third game in this four-game set is the charm as they'll send Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 1.15 ERA) to the mound on Saturday afternoon to oppose the Cubs' Jason Hammel (4-0, 1.24 ERA).