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National League Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, July 4 (All times Eastern)
Chicago Cubs (37-46) at Washington Nationals (46-38), 11:05 a.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Chicago - Jason Hammel (7-5, 2.98) Washington - Tanner Roark (7-5, 2.98)
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Washington Nationals try to set off some fireworks when they begin a three-game series Friday morning versus the visiting Chicago Cubs on Independence Day in DC.
The Nationals have won five in a row after losing three straight and are 9-3 since June 21. They sit just a half-game behind the surging Atlanta Braves in the National League East. Atlanta has won seven straight.
Washington is coming off a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies and handed the visitors a 4-3 loss Wednesday, as Doug Fister pushed his record to 7-2 by allowing three runs in seven innings with five strikeouts and no walks. Tyler Clippard kept the Rockies off the board in the eighth and Rafael Soriano did the same in the ninth for his 20th save.
Jayson Werth hit a two-run homer and Ian Desmond put his club ahead for good with a solo shot in the seventh inning for the Nationals, who have won five in a row at home and are 26-17 at Nationals Park this season.
"The at-bat was an indication of what he can do," Nationals manager Matt Williams said of Desmond. "He goes up there in that situation. He knows he is not going to get a ball to pull. And he stayed on it and it went over the fence. He has great power to all fields and he has the ability to do that at any time. It's just a good professional at-bat."
Desmond hit the 50th home run of the season for a Nationals infielder and owns 15 homers and 51 RBI. He has seven multi-hit games since June 18.
The Nats, who scored seven runs in each of its previous three games and are a season-high eight games over .500, will also host Baltimore for two games on the homestand. They are 38-3 this season when scoring four or more runs, but 8-35 when posting three or fewer.
Washington has the best ERA in baseball at 3.04 and hopes Tanner Roark can keep it that way when he takes the mound Friday morning. Roark is 7-5 with a 2.98 earned run average and had a personal four-game winning streak halted in last Friday's 7-2 road loss to the Cubs. He gave up four runs and 10 hits in six innings.
Roark had given up four runs total during his unbeaten streak from June 6-22. The right-hander is 4-3 in eight home starts and 1-1 with a 7.04 ERA in two career games (1 start) against the Cubs.
Roark will have to cool down a Cubs team that started an 11-game road trip by sweeping a three-game series from the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
The Cubs, who secured their first series victory at Fenway since a four-game sweep of the Boston Braves from May 20-24, 1915, pounded out a 16-9 victory on Wednesday and recorded four home runs and 19 hits. Justin Ruggiano hit a two- run homer and finished with five RBI, while Mike Olt and Welington Castillo each hit two-run blasts.
Nate Schierholtz belted a solo home run and Darwin Barney finished 4-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored. Every Cubs start had a hit and the win completed the Cubs' first interleague series sweep since going 3-0 against the Indians on June 19-21, 2009. Chicago had 10 extra-base hits.
Travis Wood struggled in the start for Chicago and allowed three runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings. Carlos Villanueva picked up the win in relief for the Cubs, who have won six of their last nine games. The Cubs have won six of their last seven on the road and are riding a four-game road winning streak for the first time since Sept. 7-12, 2012.
Before Wednesday's 16-run deluge, the Cubs plated two or fewer runs in each of the previous four games. The 16 runs and 19 hits were the second highest run and hit totals of the season, behind a 17-5 game at St. Louis on May 12.
The Cubs will play five games against the Cincinnati Reds on this trek.
Jason Hammel has the same numbers as Friday's counterpart, Roark, and gets the nod for the Cubs. Hammel is 7-5 with a 2.98 ERA as well and ended a four-start winless (0-2) drought in last Friday's 7-2 win over Washington, charged with only two runs over 6 1/3 innings.
Hammel struck out six and has fanned that many in six straight starts. Hammel has posted six or more K's 10 times this season. The right-hander, who has a 3-4 record in nine road starts, hopes to stay unbeaten in his career against the Nationals and is 7-0 with a 3.12 ERA across 60 2/3 innings (9 starts).
The Cubs and Nationals just split a four-game series at Wrigley Field from June 26-28, and Washington swept a doubleheader last Saturday. The Nationals have won five of the last seven meetings with the Cubs and are 12-6 in this series since 2012.
07/04 10:40:29 ET