Sánchez pitches into 9th, slugging Nats roll past Cubs 9-3

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester makes a fielding error on a bill hit by the Washington Nationals’ Howie Kendrick during the second inning of Friday’s game in Chicago.

Aníbal Sánchez wanted to help his weary teammates with a strong performance on the mound.

The solid afternoon at the plate was an unexpected bonus.

Sánchez pitched one-hit ball into the ninth inning and helped himself with two perfectly placed bunts, leading the Washington Nationals to a 9-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Friday in Chicago.

“I’m not a good hitter, but if I can do something for the team on the home plate, it’s good,” Sánchez said.

Washington had a short turnaround with an early start after its 7-1 victory at Pittsburgh on Thursday night. The Nationals didn’t arrive in Chicago until early Friday morning, but their loaded lineup looked as if it got more than enough rest.

“Proud of the boys,” manager Dave Martinez said. “They battled through a long night last night, came back here and (were) ready to play. They played really well and Aníbal led that.”

Juan Soto and Adam Eaton homered as Washington improved to 13-4 in its past 17 games, putting pressure on NL East-leading Atlanta and strengthening its position atop the wild-card standings. It has outscored its opponents 129-66 since Aug. 5.

Chicago had won five in a row, but it was unable to overcome a shaky start by Jon Lester (10-9) and another rough performance at the plate. The Cubs finished with three hits, including two in their three-run ninth, a day after they had two in a 1-0 victory over San Francisco.

“It’s my job to do better, and I’m not,” Lester said. “I let a five-game winning streak basically go down the wayside because I didn’t throw the ball very well.”

Sánchez (8-6), who flew into Chicago ahead of time on Thursday, allowed one earned run while improving to 8-0 with a 3.13 ERA in his past 16 starts. Matt Grace got the last two outs.

The 35-year-old Sánchez “did a good job moving the ball in and out, mixing up speeds,” Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber said. “When he was missing, he was missing off the plate.”

Pirates 3, Reds 2 — At Pittsburgh: Pablo Reyes hit a game-ending RBI single, driving in pinch-runner Joe Musgrove, and Pittsburgh rallied to beat Cincinnati.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

White Sox 8, Rangers 3 — At Chicago: Dylan Cease settled down after a tough start, Yoan Moncada hit a two-run homer for the second straight night and Chicago beat Texas.

Adam Engel added two RBIs as Chicago won for the fourth time in five games. Tim Anderson and Leury Garcia each had two hits and drove in a run.

Rays 7, Orioles 1 — At Baltimore: Austin Meadows hit his first career grand slam to cap a seven-run second inning, Trevor Richards shined in his second start with Tampa Bay and the Rays extended their impressive road run by beating Baltimore.

Indians 4, Royals 1 — At Cleveland: Brad Hand bounced back from his recent struggles to record his 30th save, Francisco Lindor hit a two-run homer and Cleveland defeated Kansas City.

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