Nationals look to end road trip on high note against Cubs


The Washington Nationals will try to conclude their seven-game road trip with a winning record Thursday as they take on the Cubs in Chicago.

After regrouping for a 4-3 victory Wednesday night following losses in the first two games of the series against the Cubs, Washington can salvage a split of the four-game set at Wrigley Field. The Cubs won two of three at Arizona over the weekend.

Washington will aim for its fifth win in the eight games as struggling right-hander Joe Ross (2-3, 5.80 ERA) takes the mound.

Pitching at Arizona in his most recent outing Saturday, Ross surrendered four consecutive hits to open the game, leading to three Diamondbacks runs. After settling down to record two straight scoreless innings, Ross scuffled again, leaving after allowing eight runs on eight hits in four-plus innings with three walks and five strikeouts. Arizona won 11-4.

“Location, location, location,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “Joe was a little off. He tried to battle.”

Ross is 0-2 with a 3.54 ERA in six career appearances against the Cubs, including five starts, with 23 strikeouts in 28 innings.

Chicago will answer with righty Trevor Williams (2-2, 6.27), who also had a rough road start Saturday, allowing three runs on four hits in two innings during the Cubs’ eventual 9-8 loss at Detroit. Opponents have reached Williams for 11 runs on 15 hits in 8 2/3 innings over his past three starts.

In five career appearances against the Nationals, including four starts, Williams is 1-2 with a 5.49 ERA with six home runs allowed in 19 2/3 innings.

The Cubs have not thrown a shutout all season.

It’s possible a new face could be around to impact the game. On Wednesday, P.J. Higgins became the fifth Chicago player to make his major-league debut this season when he pinch hit for Jason Heyward in the fourth.

Projected as a backup catcher, Higgins remained in the game and played first base as Heyward dealt with left hamstring tightness. He was hitless in three at-bats,

Cubs manager David Ross called Higgins “very versatile” with “a contact-type bat.” Higgins shares at least one attribute with his rookie brethren, however — he prompts his teammates and the rest of the clubhouse to ponder the beginning of their careers.

“Yeah, when they come off and I see the smiles, or the hands are shaking, or the nerves are there or not, all that stuff, it just makes me smile and laugh,” Ross said. “And takes me back to the great memories that I have of when I first made that same journey.”

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (back) is day to day. Heyward’s status is uncertain.

Martinez said center fielder Victor Robles will undergo X-rays Thursday after injuring his right ankle in the fourth inning Wednesday.

–Field Level Media

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