RECORDS: Cubs 25-16   Nationals 18-25

GAMETIMES: Friday- Sunday at 6:05 

TV: WGN Friday, FOX Saturday, ESPN Sunday



Cole Hamels vs. Max Scherzer

Jon Lester vs. Stephen Strasburg

Kyle Hendricks vs. Jeremy Hellickson


Kyle Schwarber – LF

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Willson Contreras – C

Daniel Descalso – 2B

Jason Heyward – RF

Albert Almora Jr. – CF


Trea Turner – SS

Victor Robles – RF

Anthony Rendon – 3B

Howie Kendrick – 1B

Juan Soto – LF

Kurt Suzuki – C

Brian Dozier – 2B

Michael Taylor – CF


After their first disappointing series result in over a month, the Cubs decamp to the capital to see what a real disappointment looks like, Dave Martinez looked overmatched last year with a mess of a team with a departing Bryce Harper and everyone else pretty much miserable. But the Nats’ brass wanted a second look to be sure, like when you sleep with someone a second time after the first time was terrible to make sure it wasn’t you, and it’s going just about as well. The Nats only have the Marlins to thank for propping them up in the East, and they’re six games behind pace-setters Philadelphia.

One misfiring piston is the offense, which ranks 10th in the NL in runs, OBP, and wOBA. The two kids, Robles and Soto, have done what they can but they have not gotten much help. Brian Dozier apparently dies three years ago. We know Ryan Zimmerman did. Trea Turner has been hurt but returns tonight which means they can stop giving ABs to human drainage ditch Wilmer Difo. Anthony Rendon still rules, and he’s the main threat in this outfit. Ryan Zimmerman is on the IL by being covered in formaldehyde. And Adam Eaton hasn’t been able to bro it up very much with his one knee. Turner’s return should see a jump from this offense, but how much we’ll see.

The rotation is what you’ve come to expect and perhaps the biggest reason the Nats were still thought of as faves in the division ever after losing THE HAIR in right. And Scherzer, Corbin, and Strasburg have been up to that challenge, so unlucky for the Cubs they’ll catch two of the three. But the back end has been terrible with Anibal Sanchez and Sunday’s starter Hellickson, and now Sanchez is hurt.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Nationals have had some bullpen problems. Closer Sean Doolittle, along with being an excellent person, has been very good, but getting to him has proven something of a jump over lava. Wander Suero, which I’m pretty sure is a name and a command, has been undone by a couple ugly outings but has straightened out of late. Tony Sipp blows, and everyone else outside Kyle Barraclough has been gasoline. There are enough arms to get by, especially after what they get from their top three starters, but once again they’ll have to figure this one out later in the season if they want to contend.

There’s certainly more than enough here for the Nationals to run with the Fightin’s and if either the Mets or Braves stop drinking their own piss. But there was enough last year, and Martinez’s bewildered expression didn’t do a lot for them. Perhaps when Robles and Soto stop striking out over a quarter of the time the offense will really take off, and you’ll see a run then. What they can’t have is any injury to the troika in the rotation or Doolittle, and the latter hasn’t not been the most sturdy in his career. He’d also look mighty fine in blue pinstripes if it really goes balls-up for the Nats.

For the Cubs, Anthony Rizzo returns from his backiotomy. The first two nights feature some neon-light pitching matchups, and Nationals Park hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for the Cubs. Still, a win in this series puts the Cubs on a .500 road trip and that’s fine. They’ll just have to get one over on either Strasburg or Scherzer to get that, or both. Not the easiest path.