CHICAGO (AP) — Aníbal Sánchez pitched one-hit ball into the ninth inning and helped himself with two perfectly placed bunts, leading the Washington Nationals to a 9-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Friday.
Washington had a short turnaround with an afternoon start after its 7-1 victory at Pittsburgh on Thursday night. The Nationals didn’t arrive in Chicago until early Friday morning, but their loaded lineup looked as if it got more than enough rest.
Juan Soto and Adam Eaton homered as Washington improved to 13-4 in its last 17 games, putting pressure on NL East-leading Atlanta and strengthening its position atop the wild card standings. It has outscored its opponents 129-66 since Aug. 5.
Chicago had won five in a row, but it was unable to overcome a shaky start by Jon Lester (10-9) and another rough performance at the plate. The Cubs finished with three hits, including two in their three-run ninth, a day after they finished with two in a 1-0 victory over San Francisco.
Sánchez (8-6), who flew into Chicago ahead of time on Thursday, allowed one earned run while improving to 8-0 in his last 16 starts. Matt Grace got the last two outs.
The 35-year-old Sánchez also delivered with his bat, going 2 for 3 after beginning the day with two hits on the year.
He set up Trea Turner’s sacrifice fly in the third with a swinging bunt that he directed toward third to stay away from charging first baseman Anthony Rizzo. He drove in a run with a two-out bunt single in the fourth that died practically on the third-base line.
Lester allowed six runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings. The left-hander dropped to 1-3 with an 8.51 ERA in five starts this month.
Soto had three hits and scored four times, and Víctor Robles finished with two hits and two RBIs. Soto led off the seventh with a drive to center off David Phelps for his 29th homer.
Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer reported no setbacks a day after he pitched four innings in a 7-1 victory at Pittsburgh in his return from the injured list. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has been hampered by a strain in his upper back. “I’m not out of the woods,” he said. “I got to still take care of this, got to do all the treatment, got to do all the strengthening and really focus on that so I can build up the intensity in the game.”
Cubs: C Willson Contreras (right hamstring strain) is expected to ramp up his activity when he travels with the team to New York for next week’s series against the Mets.
Cubs left-hander José Quintana (11-7, 3.91 ERA) looks to continue his career-best win streak Saturday. Quintana is 7-0 with a 2.96 ERA in his last nine starts. The Nationals had not announced their starter before the series opener.
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