Hendricks, Zobrist lead Cubs past Nationals 5-2
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.
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.
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.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap