CHICAGO — In a span of two pitches, the Washington Nationals turned what could’ve been a tight loss into an uplifting win.
Bryce Harper and company are one dangerous bunch on the road.
Matt Wieters hit a tiebreaking grand slam off Carl Edwards Jr. in Washington’s five-run eighth inning, helping the Nationals beat the Chicago Cubs 9-4 on Sunday.
“We’re kind of a MASH unit out there but everybody is contributing,” Washington manager Dusty Baker said. “That helps a lot when you can take two out of three without your top starters. … That was a big game for us to win.”
Harper started the go-ahead rally with a one-out infield single against Mike Montgomery. Ryan Zimmerman doubled against Edwards (3-3) and Daniel Murphy was walked intentionally to load the bases.
Edwards’ next pitch hit Anthony Rendon, tying it at 4, and Wieters followed with a drive over the wall in center for his third career grand slam.
“It was a first-pitch breaking ball, but out of his hands I recognized it up and it was something that I felt like I could get in the air and it just happened to carry it out,” Wieters said.
Edwards (3-3) has allowed at least one run in each of his last three appearances.
“We just got to get him back to being normal because he’s a really big part of our success,” manager Joe Maddon said.
Wieters tied a career high with five RBIs and Rendon also had a run-scoring double for NL East-leading Washington, which improved to 36-22 on the road. Brian Goodwin homered, drove in two runs and robbed Jon Jay of a hit with a terrific diving catch on a sinking liner to center in the seventh.
The Nationals (65-44) faced the Cubs without their three best starting pitchers. Max Scherzer was pushed back after he left his previous start with neck spasms. Gio Gonzalez is on the paternity list, and Stephen Strasburg is on the 10-day disabled list with a right elbow injury.
“I know we didn’t face their big guys, but we’ve beat good pitching before,” said Cubs ace Jon Lester, who allowed three runs in 6 2/3 innings. “I don’t think we’re really too worried. It’s just a matter of executing a little bit better.”
Willson Contreras hit two more home runs for Chicago (58-52), which stayed a half-game ahead of second-place Milwaukee in the NL Central. The Cubs closed out a 2-4 homestand against NL contenders Arizona and Washington before pulling on leather vests and bandannas for their “Easy Rider”-themed six-game road trip out west.
“It doesn’t count for the team. We still lose the game,” Contreras said. “I mean I don’t care if I hit two homers.”
Contreras led off the fourth with a drive to the back of the bleachers in left for his 20th homer. He connected again in the sixth, and Kyle Schwarber followed with another homer off rookie Erick Fedde for a 4-1 lead.
The 25-year-old Contreras is batting .346 (27 for 78) with 10 homers and 29 RBIs in 20 games since the All-Star break. He went deep five times in the last four games of the homestand.
But that was it for Chicago, which couldn’t get anything going against Washington’s bullpen after Fedde lasted 5 1/3 innings in his second major league start. Brandon Kintzler (3-2) pitched a scoreless inning for his first win since he was acquired in a trade with Minnesota.
Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward doubled in the eighth for his 1,000th career hit. He went 3 for 4.
The Cubs recalled infielder Tommy La Stella from Triple-A Iowa and optioned left-hander Rob Zastryzny to their top farm club. The 28-year-old La Stella is hitting .298 with two homers and six RBIs in 37 games with the Cubs this year.
Cubs: SS Addison Russell (strained right foot) thinks he will be able to return when he is eligible to come off the 10-day disabled list next Sunday. “It’s something where I feel like I could try and play through, but really all it takes is just one kind of play to make it worse than what it already is,” he said. “So taking the precautions and doing the treatment now.”
Nationals: Scherzer (12-5, 2.21 ERA) starts Monday night in the opener of a four-game series against Miami. A.J. Cole pitches on Tuesday against the Marlins, followed by Gonzalez and Tanner Roark.
Cubs: RHP Jake Arrieta (10-8, 3.88 ERA) faces Giants LHP Matt Moore on Monday night. Arrieta is 3-2 with a 2.08 ERA over his last six starts, showing flashes of the form that helped him win the NL Cy Young Award in 2015. Moore (3-11, 5.80 ERA) is trying for his first win since June 20.
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