CHICAGO -- For the first time in 12 games at Wrigley Field this season, the wind was blowing out, and both the Cubs and Nationals took advantage. Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist smacked back-to-back home runs in the third inning, and Zobrist added a three-run shot in the fifth to power the Cubs to an 8-6 victory over the Nationals on Friday afternoon.
"Probably a week ago, both of those balls I hit today, they would've been caught," Zobrist said. "I'm feeling good right now, and we're playing great baseball."
It was the sixth career multihomer game for Zobrist. Tommy La Stella also hit a two-run homer in the second, and all four Cubs blasts came off the Nationals' Max Scherzer, who had served up five in his six previous starts. Scherzer, who was coming off seven scoreless innings against the Cardinals on Sunday, was charged with a season-high seven runs
"It's just frustrating," Scherzer said. "I got to give them credit. Today, I sit here and try to reflect on what happened, that I just felt like they had a better approach than I did. I felt like I was predictable and they were just able to kind of key on that."
The Cubs improved to 22-6 and are off to their best start since the team opened the 1907 season 23-5. It's the best start by a National League team since the 1977 Dodgers began 22-6.
"They're a good club," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "They were good before the season started, and we knew they were good coming in here. But you know, we're a good club, too."
And what is Cubs manager Joe Maddon doing during this magical start?
"Stay out of the way," Maddon said.
John Lackey gave up Anthony Rendon's solo home run in the first, but he also struck out 11 over seven innings, including the 2,000th K of his career, and picked up the win.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Glovework: Lackey got some help on defense. Rendon was at first with one out in the fifth and Bryce Harper at the plate. Lackey struck out Harper, and catcher David Ross then fired to Rizzo at first base, who made the tag on Rendon for the double play. Cubs starting pitchers have made it through the fifth inning in the past 36 regular-season games dating back to Sept. 27, the team's longest stretch since 1910.
"We have signs, usually when runners are on," Rizzo said of the play. "I always just let [Ross] know. Sometimes I'll call for it. Most of the times, he doesn't listen to me."
Homer happy: The long-ball troubles that plagued Scherzer near the end of last season -- when he surrendered 27 dingers in 228 2/3 innings -- seem to have carried over to this season. The four homers the Cubs hit vs. Scherzer tied for the most home runs he has allowed in an outing in his career. In seven starts this season, Scherzer has allowed nine homers, the most in the Majors. More >
Playing time: La Stella had two home runs in 386 career at-bats prior to this season, and he hit his second this season in his 42nd at-bat. Zobrist had walked to start the second inning, and La Stella then connected on the first pitch he saw from Scherzer, which tied the game at 2. It's been quite a comeback for La Stella, who missed most of last year with right rib cage inflammation.
Late rally: The Nationals put together a comeback attempt with a four-run eighth inning, thanks to a two-run double by Jayson Werth, who has been swinging the bat better lately and is 9-for-29 on this road trip. Then Wilson Ramos hammered a two-run home run to left field that nearly reached the video board. It was a late sign of life from a Nats offense that has been stifled for much of the first two games of the series.
"Hopefully, we can carry that over into tomorrow from an offensive perspective," Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy said. "Trying to get traffic out there and give us as many opportunities to score as we can. We still have a game tomorrow and two games left here to try to finish off this road trip the right way."
Lackey struck out Werth in the fourth inning for his 2,000th career strikeout. Lackey got Werth looking at an 81-mph cutter for the first out of the frame. The Cubs right-hander became the fifth active pitcher with at least 2,000 strikeouts, joining CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Felix Hernandez and Jake Peavy.
"I guess it means I'm old and I've been around a while and have done a few things," Lackey said. More >
Scherzer and Murphy both thought Rizzo's home run in the third inning was foul and sailed to the right of the foul pole in right field, but after a crew chief review, the ball was ruled fair and the call stood.
"I'm just curious to hear what the ruling is," Scherzer said. "Whether they saw anything, but just didn't have enough evidence to overturn it."
Zobrist had a good view of the flight of the ball.
"I thought it was fair the whole time," he said. "I was hoping it would stay fair. The flag was kind of perfect timing to be in front of the [foul] pole because it hit right in the middle of that flag. You couldn't tell if it was going to hit the pole or not. I think the flag kind of shielded it so you couldn't tell if it would or wouldn't."
Said Rizzo: "I saw it fair. It was a tough one to overturn."
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals:Gio Gonzalez will try to turn things around for the Nationals after they lost back-to-back games at Wrigley to start this four-game series. He enters the game with a 1.15 ERA, second best in the National League, through his first five starts. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. ET..
Cubs:Jason Hammel will start Saturday at 3:05 p.m. CT. The right-hander has given up one or zero runs in six innings in four of his first five starts this year. He's 9-0 with a 3.01 ERA in his career vs. the Nationals.