CHICAGO -- Addison Russell drove in three runs, including two on a tie-breaking double with two outs in the seventh inning, to lift the Cubs to an 8-5 victory over the Nationals on Saturday. Chicago now has a 3-0 lead in this four-game showdown between the teams with the best records in the National League.
The Cubs improved to 23-6 and are the first NL team to win 23 of its first 29 games since the 1977 Dodgers. Chicago's start is its best since the 1907 team opened 24-5.
"When you win games like we did today, it's a game you can draw from," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Our guys know not to quit. It exemplifies, personifies 'stay with it.' [The Nationals] are a very talented team. Everything we did today was very complementary. The whole group complements each other so well."
Kris Bryant defied a 20-mph wind with a solo home run in the fourth to put Chicago ahead, 2-1, and the Cubs took a 5-4 lead in the sixth on pinch-hitter Ryan Kalish's two-run single. But the Nationals tied the score in the seventh as Ben Revere tripled and scored two batters later on Ryan Zimmerman's fielder's choice.
With one out in the Chicago seventh, Bryant walked and reached third on Anthony Rizzo's ground-rule double. Ben Zobrist was intentionally walked, and one out later, Russell lined a double to right. The Nationals challenged whether Russell's hit was fair, and after a review, the call stood.
"Everything is just falling the Cubs' way right now," Revere said. "That's baseball. What can you do? It's good that we're sticking right there with them."
The Cubs have a +101 run differential through 29 games (180 runs scored, 79 allowed). Through 29 games last season, the Cardinals led the Majors at +50 (134-84) and were 22-7.
The Cubs' +98 run differential entering the game was, since 1900, the second‐highest run differential by any Major League team through 28 games. The 1902 Pirates were at +112 through 28 games (+113 through 29).
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Short of the wall: Nationals manager Dusty Baker mentioned prior to the game how tough it is to play at Wrigley Field, with so little foul ground and a brick wall so close to the foul line. Bryce Harper battled that problem on Russell's double, which landed barely in fair territory down the line in right field and just past Harper's glove, as he had to stop before he ran into the wall.
"I'm not going to run into the wall plain and simple," Harper said. "I'd rather be in the lineup every day. That's just not going to happen."
Said Russell: "It just happened so quick. I thought the ball was going to be foul, but it stayed in there, and we scored a few runs. I was pretty excited."
Rally time: The wheels were in motion in the Chicago sixth. With one out and the Cubs trailing, 4-2, Rizzo singled off Gio Gonzalez, and one out later, reached third on Jorge Soler's single. Russell followed with an RBI single to chase Gonzalez. Blake Treinen walked pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella, and Sammy Solis was called on to face pinch-hitter Kalish, who lined a single to left, driving in two, in his fifth at-bat with the team.
"We're doing the little things right," Chicago starter Jason Hammel said. "Everybody's doing their job when they can. Bench guys have been impressive. Kalish coming off the bench, Tommy with a good at-bat, and obviously Addison."
Fooling Mother Nature: On Friday the wind blew out at Wrigley Field, favoring the hitters and resulting in six home runs. On Saturday the wind was blowing in from the north, but Bryant launched an 0-2 pitch from Gonzalez directly into it for his fifth home run. It was Bryant's first blast since April 21, when he hit a pair at Cincinnati. He's hit in 12 of his last 13 games.
"You could actually hear it," Maddon said of Bryant's home run. "That was really loud. He punctured it. [An 0-2 count] also, just a short swing, and he got the fat part of the bat on it. That's what he does -- he can do that very easily when he gets the right pitch."
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Hammel went five innings, and a Cubs starter now has gone at least five in all 29 games this season. That matches the longest streak to start a season (they also did so in 29 games in 1927).
In the Nationals' seventh, the Cubs challenged whether Zimmerman was out at first base on a potential 5-4-3 double play ball. After a review, the call was confirmed.
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals:Tanner Roark will take the mound for the Nationals as they wrap up this 10-game road trip. Roark grew up about 60 miles southwest of Chicago, in Wilmington, Ill., and will carry a 2.35 ERA into this start. First pitch is scheduled for 2.20 p.m. ET.
Cubs:Jake Arrieta will close the four-game series against the Nationals on Sunday. Arrieta won his first six starts this season and is coming off a win over the Pirates. The National League Pitcher of the Month for April, Arrieta is 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA in seven career starts vs. the Nationals. First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT.