CHICAGO -- It felt like October on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, and not just because of the unseasonably cool 63-degree game-time temperature. This was Game 1 of a three-game series between the Nationals and Cubs, and a possible National League Division Series preview.
Daniel Murphy took care of matters, hitting a pair of home runs to back Tanner Roark and lead the Nationals to a 4-2 victory over the Cubs.
"It was a good game," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "It was a good game to watch; it was a good game to play. It was a clean-played game. To win the first game, it puts you in a good position for the series."
With the win, the Nationals have a 13-game lead over the Marlins in the NL East. The Cubs own a half-game lead in the NL Central over the Brewers.
Roark gave up five hits over 6 1/3 innings, including a two-run homer by Javier Baez with one out in the Chicago seventh. It was Baez's 15th homer, a career high for a season.
"Those guys are coming out and giving it their all," Roark said. "And we're loving it."
"It's totally different than what we saw in Washington," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the Nationals' revamped bullpen. "You want to be ahead of the starter because you don't want to get to that heavy part of the bullpen -- they're all good. They've really made it a lot thicker."
On Thursday, the D-backs' Paul Goldschmidt hit three home runs against the Cubs in a 10-8 win. On Friday, it was Murphy's turn, and he notched his fifth career multihomer game and second this year, hitting a two-run shot in the first and an opposite-field leadoff homer in the sixth.
"We got beat by two All-Stars the last two days," Maddon said. "Goldschmidt hit the homers yesterday, and today was Murphy. That's the result. We got beat by the homer two days in a row."
Murphy connected both times against Kyle Hendricks, who was making his third start since coming off the disabled list. Hendricks scattered five hits over seven innings.
"He's one of the best in the league," Hendricks said of Murphy. "You've got to pick your poison with him, where you want to pitch him, what you want to throw to him. I was mixing it today, but he was definitely on it, and he's on fire -- like he has been for the last few years."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Friendly confines: With one out in the Nationals' first, Howie Kendrick singled to center, and one out later, Murphy hit a 2-1 curveball 424 feet into the right-field bleachers to take a 2-0 lead. He smacked an opposite-field homer in the sixth, just his second opposite-field homer since he joined the Nationals at the start of last season.
"Felt pretty good. I don't hit the ball the other way a lot, I guess," Murphy said. "But I had a 2-0 fastball up and out over the plate, and I just really felt like I got my 'A' swing off on it. It happened to go to left-center."
Murphy is not a favorite among Cubs fans. In the 2015 NL Championship Series while with the Mets, he batted .529 with four homers and six RBIs in four games against the Cubs, and he came into Friday's game batting .370 at Wrigley Field. The Nats now have 162 home runs, tops in the NL. More >
Teaching moment: Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. had a tough outing on Thursday, when he walked both Arizona batters that he faced. On Friday, the Nationals loaded the bases against the right-hander in the eighth when Kendrick walked and Bryce Harper and Murphy both singled. Maddon stayed with Edwards, and Anthony Rendon hit a sacrifice fly to right. But Edwards escaped further damage by getting Adam Lind to hit into a double play.
"I want to keep putting him out there -- this guy is good," Maddon said of Edwards. "He's one of the best young relief pitchers in the National League. You've got to keep putting him out there until he starts getting that loving feeling back." More >
"We're taking every game pretty seriously because of where we're at in the standings. It's more fun playing good teams, against good competition. Even though we've lost three games, we've been playing good baseball. ... We just have to stay with it. I think the W's will come." -- Hendricks
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Cubs have allowed a multihomer game to a player in consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 19-20, 2014, when the Dodgers' A.J. Ellis and Adrian Gonzalez did so, respectively.
In the Cubs' third, Jon Jay fouled a ball that struck the protective screen in front of the Chicago dugout -- and right in front of where Maddon was standing.
"I was paying attention, but not totally," Maddon said. "That would've been chest-high if it had not hit that screen. It [comes back] so fast, it's so fast."
Maddon then sat down on the top step for the rest of the inning to let his heartbeat slow down.
"I was getting out of the way, absolutely," he said.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
With one out and a runner at second in the Nationals' third, Harper hit a grounder to Baez at short and was called out at first. The Nationals challenged the ruling, saying Harper beat the throw, and after a review, the call was overturned, and Harper was safe.
The Cubs had a runner at first and one out in the seventh when Jay hit a potential double-play ball to shortstop Wilmer Difo. Jay was called safe at first, but the Nats challenged the ruling, and after a review, the call stood.
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals:Edwin Jackson will make his first start at Wrigley Field since 2014 when he takes the mound for the Nationals on Saturday afternoon at 2:20 p.m. ET. Jackson pitched for the Cubs from '13-15.
Cubs:John Lackey gets the start on Saturday. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 2.81 ERA in three starts since the All-Star break. He lost to the Nationals on June 28, giving up eight runs on nine hits -- including three homers -- over 5 1/3 innings. First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT from Wrigley Field.