Strasburg leads Nats past Giants

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Strasburg leads Nats past Giants

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Stephen Strasburg might be pushing closer to that management-imposed innings limit -- whatever the number might be in the mind of the brass.

Washington's ace brushed off questions on the topic, and so did manager Davey Johnson. There are more important matters at hand with the NL East-leading Nationals rolling as they head into a key stretch against the division at home.

Strasburg capped Washington's longest road trip of the season by winning his third straight start in a 6-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday.

He outpitched Tim Lincecum in the process.

"It's out of my control," said Strasburg, who now stands at 139 1-3 innings. "I'm just doing everything I can to help this team win games, and it's all going to take care of itself in the end."

One hitter Strasburg (14-5) didn't have to face: All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera. He was suspended 50 games earlier in the day for a positive testosterone test.

Danny Espinosa hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the third inning, Jayson Werth drove in three runs and Kurt Suzuki added a sacrifice fly for Washington, which won a fourth straight series and now heads home for key series against division opponents New York and Atlanta.

Strasburg struck out seven and walked four in six innings, allowing two runs and four hits.

"He pitches. Guys talk about his power stuff but he knows what he's doing out there," said Suzuki, who came to the Nationals in an Aug. 3 trade from Oakland. "He's got all the hype around him. Being on the outside looking in, you always wonder. Being in a different league, and now to be catching him, you see what it's all about."

Lincecum's latest shaky outing was over after just four innings.

Brandon Crawford hit a two-run single for the Giants, who began the day in a first-place tie atop the NL West with rival Los Angeles. The Dodgers were set to play a night game at Pittsburgh.

For the Giants, losing the game was secondary to losing Cabrera. The news broke about an hour before first pitch, and Giants manager Bruce Bochy called his players together in a meeting to tell them.

Major League Baseball announced Cabrera tested positive for testosterone -- and he won't be back until either next season or at the earliest the playoffs, depending how far San Francisco were to advance.

"My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used," Cabrera said in a statement released by the union. "I accept my suspension under the Joint Drug Program and I will try to move on with my life. I am deeply sorry for my mistake and I apologize to my teammates, to the San Francisco Giants organization and to the fans for letting them down."

Cabrera is batting .346 with 11 home runs and 60 RBIs in his first season with San Francisco and is five hits shy of 1,000 in his big league career.

"Ultimately, it was just a bad decision," catcher Buster Posey said.

Lincecum (6-13) lost his second straight start after winning three of the previous four for the Giants, who ended a stretch playing for 20 straight days and will have a day off Thursday in San Diego ahead of a weekend series with the Padres.

The umpire crew turned to instant replay to determine whether Michael Morse's hit to lead off the fifth was a home run or a double off the top of the wall in right-center. The double stood, and Morse extended his hitting streak to 12 games.

Lincecum struck out five and walked one but labored for most of his brief outing. He threw 38 pitches in the first inning when Washington scored twice, then gave up a towering drive to right-center by Espinosa in the third before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fourth.

That ended Lincecum's best stretch of the season -- he had allowed only five earned runs over 20 innings going into the game -- and left the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner once again searching for answers.

Strasburg, on the other hand, was quietly effective while beating the Giants for the second time in his career.

The Nationals right-hander allowed Crawford's single in the second after opening the inning with back-to-back walks, but was otherwise strong in his first outing at the Giants waterfront ballpark.

He struck out Posey in the third after a nine-pitch duel with the All-Star catcher, then struck out the side in the fifth.

Espinosa's home run was his 13th of the season and fourth in his past 12 games.

Tyler Clippard pitched the ninth for the Nationals, allowing a two-out single to pinch-hitter Hector Sanchez and an unearned run when first baseman Adam LaRoche lost Pablo Sandoval's popup for an error that allowed Sanchez to score from second. Clippard held on for his 25th save.

Sandoval insists the Giants will move forward without Cabrera.

"We are a team. We're trying to make the playoffs," Sandoval said. "We're going to fight."

Notes: Strasburg walked four for the second straight game, matching his season high. ... San Francisco C Posey will be behind the plate as much as possible in the coming weeks without him getting worn down. ... Johnson on Bochy: "Bochy reminds me of Whitey Herzog trying to get all those switch-hitters in there. Whitey liked to get eight of em in if he could." ... Cabrera had been in the original lineup batting third and playing LF. Gregor Blanco played in his place and added an RBI single. ... Lincecum failed to reach five innings for the sixth time in his 25 starts this year. Before this season, he'd done so only 15 times. ... San Francisco's Brandon Belt has nine hits in his past 16 at-bats and is hitting .407 (24 for 59) in his past 18 games. ... Home run king Barry Bonds attended the game and received a standing ovation when he made an early exit.

Revere makes his return to the lineup as Nats hope to rebound vs. Cubs

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Revere makes his return to the lineup as Nats hope to rebound vs. Cubs

Nationals (19-9) vs. Cubs (21-6) at Wrigley Field 

On Thursday night, the Nationals found out the hard way what makes the Cubs the best team in baseball. Despite a quality outing by Joe Ross, Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist drove in four of Chicago's five runs en route to a 5-2 series-opening win for the home team. 

But the Nats will head into Friday's game with what they hope is a big boost to their offense: Centerfielder Ben Revere makes his return to the lineup for the first time since his Opening Day oblique injury, replacing Michael Taylor atop the batting order. How long will it take him to get in a groove? 

As for the pitching matchup, the Nats will send out their ace Max Scherzer (3-1, 3.55 ERA) to oppose John Lackey (3-1, 4.32 ERA), who was one of the Cubs' big offseason acquisitions. 

First pitch: 2:20 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Max Scherzer vs. Cubs - John Lackey

NATS

CF Ben Revere 

3B Anthony Rendon

RF Bryce Harper 

1B Ryan Zimmerman 

2B Daniel Murphy

LF Jayson Werth 

C Wilson Ramos

SS Danny Espinosa 

P Max Scherzer

 

CUBS

CF Dexter Fowler 

RF Jayson Heyward 

LF Kris Bryant 

1B Anthony Rizzo 

2B Ben Zobrist 

3B Tommy La Stella 

SS Javy Baez 

C David Ross

P John Lackey 

 

Follow along with GameView here.

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.

Ross' 9 Ks not enough to overcome Zobrist and Hendricks' big night

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Ross' 9 Ks not enough to overcome Zobrist and Hendricks' big night

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 5-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night at Wrigley Field:

How it happened: Ben Zobrist came to play. The highly prized free agent signed during the offseason to round out the Cubs infield started things off early, driving in Tommy La Stella and Kris Bryant in the fourth inning on a single to put the Cubs.

Four innings later, with the Nationals unable to make good contact off Kyle Hendricks (2-2, 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO), Zobrist tacked on two more thanks to a big, two-out home run to left field off reliever Felipe Rivero.

Two batters later, Addison Russell drove in Ryan Kallish on a double off Joe Kelley to put the Cubs up 5-0.

Bryce Harper reached on a walk in the top of the ninth and Jayson Werth cleared the bases on a home run off Travis Wood, but Carlos Rodon shut the door on Wilson Ramos and the Nats, procuring the final out.

What it means: The 5-1 win moves the Cubs' run differential to an absurd +96. It's still an early-season series, but four games in Chicago will help fuel the narrative heading toward the All-Star break. The Nats' bats were cold, but Bryce Harper reaching base four times is a good sign that maybe brief slump is coming to an end.

Ross' standout start: Despite suffering his first loss of the year, Joe Ross tossed perhaps his best game of the 2016 campaign. Although he gave up a season-high two runs, he also recorded a season-high nine strikeouts and allowed just five hits and two balls.

His slider was working early, recording his first three punchouts using his go-to pitch. The 22-year-old hurler continues to dazzle early in the year and his been a pleasant surprise.

He faced his biggest test to date and while he took the loss, his performance certainly wasn't anything to scoff at.

With a 1.23 ERA, he ranks behind just Gio Gonzalez and Jake Arrieta for the league lead. That's good company to keep.

Murphy comes up empty: Daniel Murphy did not record a hit. That may sound a bit odd and with good reason. Thursday night was just the fourth time all season Murphy has failed to get a hit this season. His two strikeouts was also a rareity, just the second-time he's been sent down twice in one outing in 2016. But fear not. Each of Murphy's hitless games have been followed up by multi-hit games with at least one RBI. Friday will be different for sure.

Revere waits again: There was speculation that Ben Revere would make his return to the lineup on Thursday after spending a month on the DL due to a strained oblique he suffered during the first week of the season. But after giving it a go in pregame warmups it was determined that one more day of rest would get Revere back to 100%, and he is expected to be back on the field on Friday, 

What's next: Max Scherzer (3-1, 3.31 ERA) takes on John Lackey (3-1, 4.32 ERA) on Friday afternoon with Lackey needing just six strikeouts to become the fifth active starter with at least 2,000 Ks, joining the likes of Bartolo Colon, Felix Hernandez, Jake Peavy and CC Sabathia.