The Chicago Cubs continue to make it clear they are not taking anything for granted as they continue their stretch against opponents with sub-.500 records.
The first-place Cubs look for a second straight victory in the opener of a weekend home set Friday afternoon against the lowly Washington Nationals, who snapped their longest losing streak since 1976 in their last game.
Chicago (78-49) held on for a 3-2 win over Cincinnati on Thursday to take two of three from the last-place Reds and win for the 18th time in 23 contests. Now the NL Central leaders face the team with the major’s worst record in Washington (45-83), which ended a 12-game losing streak with a 4-3 win at Philadelphia on Thursday.
“It’s a big weight off our shoulders,” said Nationals reliever Joel Hanrahan, who recorded the first two-inning save since the franchise moved from Montreal to Washington in 2005. “We knew people were writing about it everywhere. Now we want to win a couple more.”
Chicago, which dropped two of three at Washington from April 25-27, isn’t about to take the Nationals lightly despite owning the NL’s best record and a 5 1/2-game lead over Milwaukee in the Central.
After this series, the Cubs head to Pittsburgh before coming home to face a winning team when Philadelphia visits Wrigley Field for a four-game set next weekend.
“(Those) guys aren’t giving up,” Friday’s starting pitcher Jason Marquis told the Cubs’ official Web site. “There’s no laying down in the game of baseball. You’ve got to always be on your toes and be ready.”
Marquis (8-7, 4.67 ERA) tries for a third straight victory while making his first start since allowing two runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 10-2 win over Atlanta on Aug. 13.
The right-hander, who had lost his previous four decisions prior to winning two in a row, is 2-4 with a 3.50 ERA in 10 starts versus the Nationals franchise.
DeRosa went 4-for-11 in the series with the Reds, while Ryan Theriot had two hits to remain among the NL’s top hitters with a .315 average. Theriot is 4-for-11 with a double against Washington this season.
Chicago looks for a better outing versus Washington’s John Lannan (6-12, 3.81) after he allowed four hits in seven innings of a 2-0 win over the Cubs on April 27 in his only appearance against them.
The left-hander, though, hasn’t been as good of late, going 0-3 with a 5.76 ERA over his last five starts. He gave up eight runs and seven hits in four innings of a 13-6 home loss to Colorado on Saturday.
“I don’t even know what was going on,” Lannan said. “It was definitely a start you’ve got to forget about.”
Austin Kearns had a tiebreaking single in the eighth inning and Cristian Guzman was one of three Nationals players with two hits Thursday for the team’s first victory since sweeping a doubleheader at Colorado on Aug. 7.
Kearns is hitting .421 (8-for-19) with two homers and five RBIs against Marquis.