The Chicago Cubs try to avoid a fourth straight loss when they face the host Washington Nationals in the first of a three-game series between trade deadline sellers on Friday night. The first pitch of the series opener is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
The Cubs dropped the final three of a four-game series against the Reds this week, including a 7-4 setback on Thursday. Chicago is 50-54 and in fourth place in the National League Central, two games behind the third-place St. Louis Cardinals and 11½ out of first place.
Washington has won two of its last three but is coming off an 11-8 loss in the second game of a doubleheader on Thursday. The Nationals are 47-55 and in fourth place in the NL East, trailing the third-place Atlanta Braves by 3½ games and leading the last-place Miami Marlins by three games.
The MLB odds for this contest have the Cubs with a moneyline of +110, while the Nationals are listed at -125. The over/under for the series opener is set at 8½ runs.
The Cubs traded away three of the key pieces to their 2016 World Series title run. They dealt first baseman Anthony Rizzo to the New York Yankees on Thursday and on Friday shipped Kris Bryant to the San Francisco Giants and shortstop Javier Baez to the New York Mets.
Rizzo hit 16 doubles, three triples and 14 home runs in 92 games, driving in 40 runs and scoring 41 runs. Bryant, the former NL MVP, is batting .267 with 18 home runs and 51 RBIs. Baez led the Cubs with 22 home runs and 65 RBIs. He is batting .248 with nine doubles, two triples and 48 runs scored.
Right-hander Trevor Williams was schedule to start for Chicago on Friday night but he was also shipped out in the Baez deal. Chicago also traded closer Craig Kimbrel to the cross-town White Sox on Friday.
Jake Arrieta was reinstated off the 10-day Injured List to make Friday’s start. He is 5-9 with a 6.30 ERA.
While the Cubs are dealing with their own losses from trade, the Nationals could really be looking at major holes after the trade deadline. They reportedly have agreed to send pitcher Max Scherzer and shortstop Trea Turner to the Los Angeles Dodgers for prospects. Scherzer was on the mound for Thursday’s doubleheader opener, getting the win.
“I don’t want to look at this as a negative thing. I really look at it as a positive thing,” Scherzer said after Thursday’s win. “I signed a seven-year deal here to win a World Series. And we won. We won a World Series. That’s a lifelong dream come true.”
Turner is currently out due to a positive COVID-19 test earlier this week. The Nationals also dealt the team’s home run leader, Kyle Schwarber, to the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, traded closer Brad Hand to the Toronto Blue Jays and shipped reliever Daniel Hudson to the San Diego Padres.
Due to the team’s COVID-19 problems — which caused Wednesday game with Philadelphia to be postponed to Thursday — and the trades, Washington did not name a starter until Friday afternoon. Paolo Espino (2-2, 3.21 ERA) will start for the Nationals, who are trying to bounce back from blowing a 7-0 lead in Thursday’s nightcap, falling 11-8 in eight innings on a walk-off grand slam.
Manager Dave Martinez can at least count on outfielder Juan Soto to be in his lineup. The 22-year-old is batting .302 to rank 13th in the majors while leading the team with 58 RBIs. Soto also has 11 doubles, a triple, 18 home runs and 67 runs scored.
The Cubs won three of four in the first series of the season between the teams in Chicago in May. The Nationals are 27-25 at home while the Cubs have struggled on the road, going 19-33.
Kyle Hendricks (12-4, 3.85 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for Saturday’s game followed by Adbert Alzolay (4-11, 4.73) in Sunday’s series finale. The Nationals are planning to counter with Jon Lester (3-5, 5.02) on Saturday and Paolo Espino (2-2, 3.21) on Sunday.
The MLB series prices for this three-game set have the Cubs at -115, while the Nationals are also listed at -115.