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Jon Lester struggles as Cubs put together little offense in 9-3 loss to Nationals

Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Baseball

CHICAGO -- It was hard to make out the nicknames on the backs of the all-white uniforms the Cubs wore for Players' Weekend, but Friday was one of those days the Cubs were better off going unrecognized.

Jon Lester suffered through another short outing and the lineup contributed only three hits in a 9-3 loss to the Nationals before 39,889 on a cool August afternoon at Wrigley Field.

Adam Eaton's solo home run in the first inning gave starter Anibal Sanchez a lead for keeps, as the Nationals snapped the Cubs' five-game win streak and left them in a virtual tie for first-place with the Cardinals, pending the result of St. Louis' game Friday night against the Rockies.

Sanchez nearly threw a complete game, allowing no runners to reach second until the ninth, when the Cubs scored on a walk and an error to force his exit.

Nicholas Castellanos drove in the second run with an RBI double off reliever Matt Grace, and Anthony Rizzo singled up the middle to make it 9-3.

Coming off six scoreless innings against the Pirates in his last outing, Lester (10-9) allowed six runs on nine hits over 4 1/3 innings. He has failed to last more than five innings in four of his last five starts, and is now 1-3 in August with an 8.51 ERA.

More disturbing was the Cubs' hit-and-miss offense, which was non-existent except for Castellanos' one-out single in the fourth and the belated rally in the ninth. After a 12-11 win Wednesday against the Giants, they have a combined for five hits in the last two games, including Jason Heyward's single in Thursday's 1-0 win over the Giants that was a routine fly ball center fielder Kevin Pillar lost in the sun.

It got so bad Friday that Kris Bryant even tried to bunt with the Cubs trailing 4-0 in the fourth and Castellanos on first. He popped it straight up in the air for the second out, before Sanchez struck out Rizzo to end the inning.

 

With the wind blowing in from right at 18 mph, the Nationals played small ball most of the afternoon with much success. After Eaton's homer, the Nationals took a 2-0 lead in the second on Trea Turner's sacrifice fly, then cashed in with five singles in the two-run fourth, including a bases-loaded bunt single by Sanchez.

Pedro Strop replaced Lester with one out in the fourth and added to the misery, as the Nationals began to pile on off the Cubs bullpen.

Jose Quintana, who is 7-0 in his last nine starts, faces the Nationals on Saturday in the second game of the series.

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