CHICAGO (AP) - Max Scherzer had never given up this many runs in the National League, and he was frustrated by the way the Chicago Cubs beat him.
“When I sit here and chat and reflect on kind of what happened,” he said, “I just felt like they had a better approach than I did.”
The three-time All-Star gave up seven runs, including four home runs, in five innings as the Washington Nationals fell to the Cubs 8-6 on Friday. Scherzer (3-2) hadn’t given up seven runs in a game since joining the Nationals last year. He surrendered 10 in 2014 when he pitched for Detroit against Kansas City.
“It shows just how good of a team they are,” Scherzer said, “and how much I need to execute just a little bit better.”
Ben Zobrist homered twice for Chicago, Anthony Rizzo and Tommy La Stella each hit one, and the Nationals fell to 19-10 after entering the game with the second-best record in baseball.
The Cubs won their fifth straight and improved to a major league-leading 22-6, the best 28-game start in the National League since the 1977 Los Angeles Dodgers began with the same record.
“The damage came today from Rizzo and Zobrist,” Scherzer said, who did have an RBI single in the second to give Washington a 2-0 lead. “I wasn’t able to contain the lefties in their lineup. When you look at it like that, they do a great job of putting in a good approach against right-handed pitching.”
Scherzer has allowed nine home runs this season.
“I’m very surprised because he’s a pitcher about location and he’s been for the most part locating well,” Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos said. “It just seems like a lot of these pitches, they’ve been over the plate. This season, that’s what’s hurt him a lot.”
Anthony Rendon and Ramos homered for Washington.
John Lackey (4-1) struck out 11, one shy of his career high, in seven innings. Hector Rondon pitched a scoreless ninth for his fifth save in as many chances.
Lackey became the fifth active pitcher with 2,000 strikeouts when he fanned Jayson Werth in the fourth, joining CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Felix Hernandez and Jake Peavy and earning a standing ovation from the Wrigley Field crowd of 39,206.
“I guess it means I’m old and been around awhile, done a few things,” said Lackey, 37.
La Stella tied the score with a two-run home run in the second.
Rizzo and Zobrist hit back-to-back homers in the fourth for a 4-2 lead.
Rizzo’s 10th homer up toward the flags atop the foul pole in right field was reviewed and upheld.
“I saw it fair, said Rizzo, who teased injured Cubs teammate Kyle Schwarber that it was one of his “Schwarbombs.”
Zobrist connected again for his fifth homer, a three-run shot with two outs in the fifth that made it 7-2.
Nationals: CF/leadoff hitter Ben Revere was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list and went 0 for 5. He had been sidelined since the season opener because of a strained right oblique. To make room, OF Matt den Dekker was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.
Cubs: C Miguel Montero (lower back tightness), would rather not go on a rehab assignment when he returns from the 15-day disabled list.
“I’ve only lost eight games, so it’s not really that much, but it’s not up to me,” said Montero, sidelined since April 24. “If they ask me, I don’t think I really need a rehab, but like I say, it’s not my decision.”
Cubs RHP Jason Hammel (4-0, 1.24 ERA) will face Nationals LHP Gio Gonzales (2-1, 1.15) in a matchup of two of the NL’s top four pitchers in ERA entering the weekend.
In 11 career starts against the Nationals, Hammel is 9-0 with a 3.01 ERA. No other active pitcher has as many wins without a loss against one opponent.
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