Anthony Rizzo was nearly a one-man show for the Cubs, hitting two homers and knocking in three runs, but Chicago fell short as it lost its 25th game of the season.
Drew Storen allowed a run in the ninth but picked up his 18th save, closing out the Nationals' 30th victory.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Offense back on track: Prior to Friday, the Nationals' offense was stagnant for the previous seven games, hitting .226 with a homer, 15 RBIs and a .303 on-base percentage. But it was a different story Friday. The Nationals scored seven runs on 12 hits. Danny Espinosa was the hitting hero, going 2-for-4, including a three-run homer in the second inning.
"We jumped out fairly early getting the homer from Danny. The Cubs got within one, but we got a couple late," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "Nice job throughout the lineup tonight. Guys off the bench were good. Good win for us. We needed that one." More >
Rizzo for two: Rizzo will right Chicago's offense even if he has to do it all by himself. The 25-year-old broke up Roark's perfect game in the fourth inning with a solo shot to right field and provided an encore performance two innings later with a two-run blast to center field. The second home run was projected by Statcast™ to land 429 feet away from home plate. It was Rizzo's eighth multihomer game of his career.
"Rizz has been doing that the whole time," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I know there's a lot of worthy first basemen All-Star candidates, but he's got to be at the top of the list. I know [other guys are] doing really well, but it's hard to imagine doing better than he is right now. He's been outstanding." More >
Roark does enough on the mound: If it wasn't for Rizzo, Roark would have had a solid outing. Instead, Roark allowed four runs and was pulled after 5 2/3 innings. Roark didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning, when he allowed a solo homer to Rizzo. Roark was taken out of the game after allowing a second blast to Rizzo and then a solo homer to Miguel Montero in the sixth inning.
"The fastball was up," Roark said. "The same with Montero. They put good wood on it."
Span robs Rizzo of an extra-base hit: Rizzo could have had at least a double in eighth inning, but Denard Span made a tremendous catch up against the left-center-field wall. Blake Treinen, who was on the mound, thought the ball was gone when Rizzo made contact.
Span, who was playing the lefty-hitting Rizzo to pull the ball, ran a long way to make the catch.
"I just reacted. I tried to get back as fast as possible. I knew the wall was coming up. I just made a play," Span said. "I stuck my glove [out] and squeezed my glove." More >
"It's really been incredible to watch. I have not really seen that level of offensive performance for that length of time. I'm talking the at-bats, the hits, the homers, the two-strike approach. His OPS is ridiculous right now. I know there are other guys out there, but personally, I have not seen anything quite that good." -- Maddon, making his case for Rizzo as an All-Star
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With his seven home runs, Espinosa now leads the National League in that department among second basemen. He is tied for third in the Major Leagues with Toronto's Devon Travis.
UNDER FURTHER REVIEW
In the top of the fourth inning, Kris Bryant singled to left field and was thrown out by Michael Taylor trying to stretch the hit into a double. Maddon challenged the play, believing that Bryant reached the base before Espinosa applied the tag. The review lasted one minute and 52 seconds, and the call stood. Bryant was out at second base and the Cubs lost their challenge.
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs:Jason Hammel will start Saturday at 11:05 a.m. CT in the third game of a four-game set with the Nationals in D.C. Hammel has 28 strikeouts and one walk over his last three starts. His 9.86 strikeout-to-walk ratio for the season is third best in the Major Leagues.
Nationals: Right-hander Joe Ross will become the sixth Nationals pitcher to make his Major League debut this year on Saturday at 12:05 p.m. ET. The younger brother of Padres right-hander Tyson Ross, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound righty is a lanky hurler who has a fastball that has been clocked in the low- to mid-90s, and he induces a lot of groundouts.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.