Ross effective vs. Cubs, but Nats lose 5-2

CHICAGO - The opener of a marquee series between the National League's top two teams featured plenty of big names, plenty of dominant pitching performances and some highlight-reel defense.

What it didn't include was very much offense.

The Cubs managed to pull off a 5-2 victory over the Nationals thanks to Ben Zobrist's two-run single to right in the bottom of the fourth and two-run homer off Felipe Rivero in the bottom of the eighth. Addison Russell added an RBI double in the eighth, as well. Zobrist's single in the fourth proved to be the lone blemish on Joe Ross' pitching line, but that was one more mistake than Kyle Hendricks made.

Jayson Werth swing gray.pngOn a chilly, 47-degree evening that felt more like late September than early May, the most-hyped matchup of the season to date proved to be a compelling, tightly contested ballgame. But a Nationals lineup that exploded for 19 runs the previous two days in Kansas City was held down through eight innings by the only pitching staff in the majors with a lower ERA at the start of the day.

Hendricks allowed just two hits (Michael A. Taylor's third-inning double, Bryce Harper's sixth-inning single) in six stellar innings. Cubs manager Joe Maddon entrusted the rest of the game to his bullpen, but Jayson Werth managed to hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth off Travis Wood to ruin the shutout.

The Nationals' best chance came in the top of the eighth, when Pedro Strop plunked Danny Espinosa and walked pinch-hitter Clint Robinson. But Taylor (who got only one pitch in the strike zone in his at-bat) struck out, and Anthony Rendon grounded into a double play to kill the potential rally.

Ross was quite effective himself, with just the brief hiccup in the fourth. The Nationals defense could have helped him out some, most notably Taylor, who couldn't catch Kris Bryant's drive to the wall in center field and then watched as the ball got lost in the ivy. Though Harper did help Ross limit the damage that inning by throwing out Anthony Rizzo at third base on Zobrist's base hit.

Still, it was hard to find much fault with Ross on this night. He finished with two runs allowed in 6 2/3 innings, striking out nine along the way. His ERA, which sat at 0.79 when he took the mound, has now risen to 1.23.

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