Manager: Joe Maddon (4th season)
Last 10 games: 6-4
Who to watch: 2B Javier Báez (25 HR, 88 RBIs, 19 SB), LF Kyle Schwarber (20 HR, 48 RBIs), 1B Anthony Rizzo (17 HR, 74 RBI), 3B David Bote (.338), RHP Pedro Strop (2.74 ERA, 8 SV)
Season series vs. Nationals: 0-0
Aug. 10: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (5-2) vs. RHP Kyle Hendricks (8-9), 2:20 p.m., MASN
Aug. 11: RHP Tanner Roark (6-12) vs. LHP Jon Lester (12-4), 4:05 p.m., MASN
Aug. 12: RHP Max Scherzer (15-5) vs. LHP Cole Hamels (2-0), 8:08 p.m., ESPN
Inside the Cubs:
The Cubs will host the Nationals this weekend for the first time this season, although both clubs’ regular season’s have intertwined. Chicago knocked off the Nats last October in the National League Division Series. This year’s Home Run Derby, hosted by the Nationals and featured two members of Joe Maddon’s clubhouse in Javier Báez and Kyle Schwarber, came down to the latter and Washington center fielder Bryce Harper. Harper knocked off Schwarber in the final round of the derby and was crowned the champion. One of the Nats’ key bullpen contributors, reliever Brandon Kintzler, was shipped off to the Cubs just hours before the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31. Maddon was the Nats’ first-year skipper Davey Martinez’s mentor for 14 years in Tampa and Chicago.
Báez is currently in the discussion for NL MVP honors this season. The other two top candidates, Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman and Colorado’s Nolan Arenado, have combined for nine stolen bases on the season, while Báez is sitting pretty with 19. Báez hit his 25th homer on the season on Monday night in a victory vs. Kansas City. Schwarber went 2-for-3 with a solo homer, his 20th this season, in Saturday’s win against the Padres. He’s achieved the 20-homer mark for the second consecutive season. Athough his 1-for-4 performance on Wedneday evening against the Royals was below par, Anthony Rizzo has been solid so far this season with 74 RBIs and a .264 average on 105 hits. With Kris Bryant currently on the DL rehabbing his left shoulder, 2012 18th-rounder David Bote has filled the void. Bote drove in a career-high three runs on Tuesday’s 5-0 victory against the Royals.
Kyle Hendricks makes his team-high 24th start of 2018 in the series opener. The right-hander earned his second-consecutive win last Saturday against San Diego, giving up four runs in five innings. Hendricks has gone 2-2 with a 2.67 ERA in five career regular-season starts against the Nationals. Hendricks started Games 1 and 5 in the NLDS against Washington last year with the Cubs coming up victorious in both contests. Jon Lester started 2018 in his usual fashion, as the lefty was steady at 10-2 with a 2.18 ERA after beating the Dodgers on June 26. Following that victory, he has been on somewhat of a downslide, going 2-2 in the seven following starts while sporting an ERA of 7.81. Lester hopes to regain his momentum against right-hander Tanner Roark on Saturday afternoon. Newly acquired left-hander Cole Hamels will have one of his toughest matchups of the season in the series finale against Max Scherzer on “Sunday Night Baseball” on ESPN. Hamels, has been slinging heat in his first two starts for the Cubs, as noted by his impressive 0.82 ERA while only having given up one earned run over 11 total innings.
Pedro Strop will assume closing duties yet again with right-hander Brandon Morrow (1.47 ERA, 22 SV) currently on the 10-day DL with inflammation in his biceps. Strop earned his eighth save of the season Monday after a terrific showing against the Royals.