MLB

Cubs-Nationals Preview

With all the talk surrounding Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant, it's Anthony Rizzo who has been the youngster to watch in this four-game set between the Chicago Cubs and the Washington Nationals.

Rizzo seeks to post his fourth straight multihit effort in Sunday's finale and help the Cubs end Jordan Zimmermann's eight-start unbeaten run.

The storyline for this series has been a budding rivalry between Las Vegas natives Harper and Bryant.

Harper, who leads the majors with a .721 slugging percentage and has 14 homers and 31 RBIs over his last 27 games, is 3 for 9 with a homer in this series. Bryant has three singles in 11 at-bats but notched his 34th RBI in 46 games Saturday as Chicago won 4-2.

Rizzo contributed an RBI double and is 6 for 12 in the series, including a two-homer effort in Friday's 7-5 defeat. He's looking to extend an 11-game hitting streak and post four straight multihit efforts for the first time since April 5-9, 2014.

He is 4 for 10 with a homer against Zimmermann (5-2, 2.88 ERA), who will try to prevent the Nationals (30-26) from losing for the eighth time in 10 games. Zimmermann improved to 4-0 with a 2.00 ERA in eight starts since losing April 18 to Philadelphia with eight strong innings in a 2-0 win over Toronto on Tuesday.

"I was a little off in the beginning, but everything is working now and right where I want to be," he said.

The right-hander has surrendered just three runs in his last 31 innings, including seven of one-run ball in a 3-2 road loss to the Cubs (29-25) on May 26. Zimmermann previously had a 4.81 career ERA against them.

He was opposed that night by Kyle Hendricks (1-2, 3.99), who also gave up one run in seven innings and didn't factor in the decision. Hendricks followed that outing up by surrendering four runs in six innings in Tuesday's 4-2 loss at Miami.

The right-hander's start last month against the Nationals marked the first time he faced them.

Zimmermann has fared well versus Starlin Castro (4 for 22), Chris Coghlan (4 for 19) and Dexter Fowler (3 for 17). Miguel Montero is 7 for 19 with three doubles in this matchup.

Castro figures to be back in the lineup after he was rested Saturday after playing in the Cubs' first 53 games. The shortstop has four hits in his last 21 at-bats.

Nationals third baseman Yunel Escobar was out for the second straight game Saturday. He was scheduled to take batting practice to test his sore right wrist.

Fowler is 5 for 12 with four runs in this series, including a 2-for-4 effort Saturday.

Washington has struck out 24 times in the series and is batting .115 with runners in scoring position over its last four games.

Cubs closer Hector Rondon has put 10 men on base in his last 7 1-3 innings, blowing two of his four save opportunities in eight appearances. Manager Joe Maddon said he isn't changing closers despite having removed Rondon after he walked Anthony Rendon in the ninth Saturday.

"Obviously (Rondon) has not been as sharp as we know he can be lately," Maddon said. "For me it was about winning the game today. I'm not ordaining anybody new."

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