Washington, DC, United States (4E Sports) – Jason Hammel pitched six strong innings while Justin Ruggiano and Starlin Castro knocked in two runs apiece as the Chicago Cubs cruised to a 7-2 win over the Washington Nationals in the opener of a three-game set Friday at Nationals Park.
Hammel (8-5) allowed two runs on five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts as the Cubs (38-46), fresh from a sweep of the Boston Red Sox, notched their fourth straight win.
“Our team is probably better than what everybody might have thought,” said Ruggiano, who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs after a 3-for-6, five-RBI performance in the series finale against the Red Sox Wednesday. “We have pretty good pieces here.”
Starter Tanner Roark (7-6) allowed four runs on nine hits with a walk and five strikeouts in seven frames for the Nationals (46-39), who came into the game on a five-game winning run.
“The guys were just trying to make sure they were getting [Roark] up in the zone, get him out over the plate,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “I thought they ground out a lot of our at-bats — and they got some good pitches to hit. And fortunately for us, a lot of them fell.”
The Cubs pounced on Roark in the first inning, when left fielder Chris Coghlan smacked the second pitch of the game into right field for a leadoff single. Ruggiano followed with a single of his own, advancing Coghlan to third. Coghlan then came home on Anthony Rizzo’s double-play groundout.
Jayson Werth tied the game in Washington’s half of the first with a long solo home run into the left-field seats but Chicago regained the lead for good in the second on an RBI single by Hammel.
The Cubs scored their third run in the third inning, as Ruggiano deposited his fourth home run of the season in the Nationals’ bullpen in right field to lead off the frame. Chicago extended the lead to 4-1 in the fifth inning on Rizzo’s RBI groundout.
Hammel settled in after Werth’s homer, throwing five straight scoreless innings through the sixth to keep the Cubs ahead.
However, Hammel was forced to escape a number of jams, with the last during the fifth inning, when he fell behind 3-0 against Roark with runners on first and second and no outs.
Hammel took a three-run lead into the seventh, but Renteria opted to pull his starter after 92 pitches, following Anthony Rendon’s leadoff double down the left-field line.