Max Scherzer Outduels Jon Lester In Washington Nationals 3-0 Win Over Cubs

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It was the matchup that everyone was looking forward to when this series began. Max Scherzer (6-3, 1.51) and Jon Lester (4-3, 3.30) faced off at Wrigley Field tonight in a battle of two of the top pitchers that were free agents this winter. Scherzer and Lester combined to throw 23 strikeouts, but it was the Nats who found a way to get on the board. Bryce Harper hit his 18th home run of the season during this game as the Washington Nationals beat the Cubs 3-0 to win the series against Chicago and win their ninth consecutive series, which ties a franchise record.

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For the first three innings, neither team could get much going against the two star pitchers. The Cubs did hit Scherzer’s fastball hard, but the wind was not blowing out like it was last night. In the bottom of the second inning, Jon Lester nearly had a home run to dead center, but it stayed in the ballpark. As for the Nats, they had one hit the first time thru the order vs. Lester.

That one hit came from Ian Desmond, who extended his hit streak to 12 games in the first inning with a one out double to left. Desmond went 3-for-5 on the night with two doubles and a base hit.

The Nationals would get on the board in the top of the fourth inning. The inning started with a single to left by Yunel Escobar and a Harper walk. With two on and no out, Ryan Zimmerman hit a groundball to short. The Cubs got the force at second, but Addison Russell made a wild throw to first, which allowed Escobar to score. The Nats had a chance for more in the fourth, but Dan Uggla and Tyler Moore struck out with two men on base.

Two innings later, it was all about Harper, who continued his red-hot month of May. He led off the inning by taking a 2-1 fastball over the left field wall for a solo shot. Harper’s 18th home run of the season and his second in as many nights gave the Nationals a 2-0 lead.

Those were all the runs that Jon Lester would give up. Even in a loss, Lester had some of his best stuff tonight. In seven innings of work, the Cubs right-hander gave up two runs (one earned run) on seven hits, struck out ten, and walked two. The ten strikeouts tied a season high for him, but Scherzer was just one step better.

While Scherzer got into some early trouble, the Nats right-hander was able to get his fastball up to 98 miles per hour at times tonight. He went seven innings, gave up no runs on five hits, walked one, and struck out a season high 13 batters on 108 pitches. He struck out nine of the final 12 batters he faced en route to his fifth straight win.

Matt Grace came in for Scherzer and had a bad night. He faced two batters, but allowed a leadoff double to Jorge Soler and hit Anthony RizzoMatt Williams would go to Casey Janssen to face Kris Bryant. Janssen would work his way out of trouble in the eighth without allowing a run. Kris Bryant popped up to first, Dexter Fowler was retired on a sacrifice bunt for the second out, which Zimmerman saved two runs by picking a low throw from Janssen. Finally, Starlin Castro would ground out to short to end the inning.

In the top of the ninth inning, the Nats would add on a much needed insurance run. Danny Espinosa, who entered the game on a double switch in the eighth, hit a home run to left field off of Travis Wood. His sixth home run of the season put the Nationals up 3-0. Drew Storen would give up a two out single in the bottom of the ninth to Jonathan Herrera, but he got Russell to ground out to second to secure his 16th save of the season.

Next Game: After a day off Thursday, the Washington Nationals (28-19) will be back in action Friday night when they take on the Cincinnati Reds (19-27) at Great American Ball Park. You can catch the game at 7:10 PM ET on MASN2 and W-USA9. Stephen Strasburg (3-5, 6.50 ERA) gets the start for the Nats against Anthony DeSclafani (2-4, 3.46) for the Reds.

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