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Bryant hits HR, but Cubs give up 2 solo shots in 2-1 loss to surging Nationals

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CHICAGO — The Cubs played good enough to win. The first-place Washington Nationals just played and pitched a bit better.

Wilson Ramos hit a tiebreaking homer in the sixth and Tanner Roark pitched five effective innings for Washington to lead the Nationals to a 2-1 victory over Chicago on Monday.

Denard Span also homered to lead off the game for Washington, which has won eight of nine.

"We just, again, have to try to figure out how to win those things, but I will take our effort," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I'll take our performance and also my takeaway is that's as good as anybody we played so far."

Cubs left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada allowed one run and four hits in 5 1/3 innings in his second start since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa. But Justin Grimm (1-1) relieved Wada and gave up Ramos' two-out drive to right.

Speaking through an interpreter, Wada said he didn't have as much velocity has he did in a nine-strikeout, no decision in San Diego last week, but he compensated by "working on locations and keeping the ball down in the zone."

Roark (1-2), making his first start of the season in place of the injured Doug Fister, was just a bit sharper than the Japanese 34-year-old.

Roark allowed rookie Kris Bryant's sixth home run and struck out three. Four Nationals relievers combined for four innings of two-hit ball, with Drew Storen working the ninth for his NL-best 15th save in 16 attempts to close out the five-hitter.

"With the exception of one slider to Bryant, (Roark) threw the ball exactly where he wanted to throw it today," Washington manager Matt Williams said. "He really kept his pitch count down through five."

The wind was blowing at Wrigley Field for a marquee, first major-league matchup of two of baseball's top young star sluggers — Bryant and Washington's Bryce Harper.

The 22-year-old Harper and 23-year-old Bryant are from Las Vegas and faced each other in games as late as high school.

"We grew up playing against each other, playing with each other and now it's a bigger stage and obviously that's pretty cool to do, living out our dreams," Bryant said before the game. "It's something we always wanted to do."

Bryant went deep in the first and also had an infield single. He reached in the ninth when a replay review showed he was hit by a pitch, but Storen retired the next three batters.

Harper went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk.

PHOTO: Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada delivers against the Washington Nationals during the third inning of a baseball game Monday, May 25, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada delivers against the Washington Nationals during the third inning of a baseball game Monday, May 25, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)

Roark, a native of Wilmington, Illinois, had a large contingent of friends and family in the stands. He cheered himself when left fielder Michael Taylor made a diving catch of Wada's liner to left to end the second inning with Chris Coghlan on first.

"I threw my hands up in the air." Roark said. "That was a heck of a catch."

Then Harper made a leaping catch at the wall of Anthony Rizzo's fly to right in the third with two outs and Bryant on first.

And the Nationals pitching did the rest.

"I think today we knew the wind would be blowing like that, so maybe we got a little too amped up for the wind," Bryant said. "It was good conditions to hit, but their pitchers, you've just go to tip their cap. They did a good job and kept us off balance."

Span led off the game by hitting a 2-2 pitch off Wrigley Field's new scoreboard in right. But Bryant connected in the bottom half, lining a 1-0 pitch into the first row of bleachers in left to tie the score.

TRAINER'S ROOM:

Nationals: OF Jayson Werth (bruised left wrist) will rejoin the team in Chicago on Tuesday but isn't expected to play. ... Fister, on the DL since May 15 with right forearm tightness, is expected to start throwing later this week.

PREGAME PLEASANTRIES

The even-tempered Bryant and often-brash Harper exchanged compliments in separate pregame chats with the media.

"When we were younger, we use to call (Bryant) 'silk,'" Harper said. "He was so smooth with everything he did."

Bryant said: "I think we have very different personalities. It's good to have guys who wear their heart on the sleeve and he's one of those guys. It's awesome to see that. He plays so hard for his team."

Although Bryant said he hasn't stayed in close contact with Harper, he said he hoped to reach out to the slugger in the offseason so the two might "play some golf, hang out and work out."

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Jordan Zimmerman (4-2, 3.52 ERA) is 0-3 in three career appearances at Wrigley Field.

Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (1-1, 4.14 ERA) pitched his first career shutout in his last outing on Thursday in San Diego.

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