WASHINGTON (AP) — Kris Bryant and the Chicago Cubs saved their best for last — bad news for a Nationals bullpen that’s having a hard enough time as it is.
Bryant matched a career high with three home runs and drove in five while the Cubs piled on against Washington’s bullpen in a 14-6 win Friday night.
Bryant went deep in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, making him the 12th player to homer in three straight innings.
“It’s tied for first, I guess. I don’t know. The other (three-homer game) in Cincinnati was great. I had one more hit there,” Bryant said. “It was just a great night all around. Myself, a lot of the rest of us had great at-bats.”
Bryant finished with four hits and extended his on-base streak to 26 games, a career best and the longest active run in the majors.
“We have seen him hit the ball consistently harder over the last two or three weeks,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He looks like he (did) a couple of years ago, and he is also reacting with the same kind of confidence. It’s a good thing to watch right now.”
Albert Almora Jr., Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras also homered to help the NL Central-leading Cubs (26-16) snap a two-game skid. Javier Baez extended the majors’ longest hitting streak to 15 games.
Contreras also had four hits. His ninth-inning homer off Matt Grace capped an 11-run barrage for the Cubs against the Nationals’ beleaguered bullpen.
Schwarber broke open a one-run game in the eighth with a two-run homer against Kyle Barraclough that concluded a 13-pitch at-bat. Bryant followed two pitches later with his 10th homer.
“The bullpen holds us, different ballgame,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “They just couldn’t do it tonight.”
Chicago starter Cole Hamels (4-0) won for the fourth time in five starts. The left-hander tossed five effective innings, squirming out of two bases-loaded jams, as the Cubs improved to 7-2 in his nine starts this season.
The only damage Hamels allowed was a two-run home run to Anthony Rendon in the third inning.
Washington (18-26) has yet to win three in a row this season and has dropped all six of Scherzer’s home starts.
Scherzer (2-5) struggled with his command over six innings. He walked a season-high four and gave up a two-run homer to Almora, his fourth of the season, in the second. Scherzer also struck out eight before exiting.
Trea Turner went 2 for 5 in his return from a broken right index finger that kept the Nationals shortstop out of the lineup for 38 games.
Almora made a diving catch in center field to rob Juan Soto of a hit in the ninth inning.
The Nationals fell to 2-13 in series openers this season.
“We’re just not getting the job done,” second baseman Brian Dozier said. “We preached, ‘Gotta win the first game.’ But at the same time, we haven’t done a good job at that. There’s no better way to fix that than to just start winning them.”
Cubs: Cubs: 1B Anthony Rizzo (back) returned to the lineup after missing four games and went 1 for 5 with a strikeout and run scored.
Nationals: OF Victor Robles was hit on the left wrist by a pitch and left the game in the fourth inning. Martinez said Robles had a contusion on the wrist, but X-rays were negative...RHP Justin Miller suffered a rotator-cuff strain in his brief relief appearance and will likely undergo and MRI Saturday...RHP Anibal Sánchez was placed on the 10-day injured list (strained left hamstring)
Cubs: LHP Jon Lester (3-1, 1.16) has not allowed an earned run in his last starts. He’s 2-2 with a 4.25 ERA in seven career starts against the Nationals.
Nationals: RHP Steven Strasburg (3-3, 3.63) has lost his last two starts. He is 1-1 with a 2.23 ERA in six career starts against the Cubs.