Nationals’ Strasburg looks to stay cool versus Cubs

WASHINGTON — – After his last start, Stephen Strasburg reflected on the challenge of pitching in the heat and humidity of the nation’s capital.

“I was trying to go as long as I can and as hard as I can,” said Strasburg, who lasted only five innings Friday against the Cincinnati Reds and did not figure in the decision.

The game time temperature was 87. “I will have to go back to the drawing board (to handle it). I think I will adjust eventually,” Strasburg said.

The last comment was intriguing since Strasburg has been pitching for Washington since 2010. He noted he is from the less humid West Coast, and the summer heat in Washington was one of the reasons why some were surprised when he signed a long extension with the Nationals in May 2016.

The humidity is only supposed to be moderate Wednesday night when Strasburg (8-2, 3.57 ERA) is slated to take the mound against the Chicago Cubs and fellow right-hander John Lackey (5-8, 4.74). The first-place Nationals are 46-31 while the Cubs are 39-38 after the Nationals won 6-1 on Tuesday.

Strasburg is 0-1 with a 1.95 ERA in four starts in his career against the Cubs. The former No. 1 overall draft pick out of San Diego State made one start against Chicago in 2012, two in 2013 and one last year.

In his start last season, he allowed one run and six hits in seven innings but did not figure in the decision.

Current Cubs are batting .287 in 94 at-bats with three homers against Strasburg. But that counts outfielder Jason Heyward (.405 in 37 at-bats), who is on the disabled list and eligible (though unlikely) to come off Thursday

Utility player Tommy La Stella is 3-for-9 with a home run against Strasburg, who has allowed 13 runs in his last 15 1/3 innings over three starts this month.

Lackey is coming off a June 23 quality start against the Marlins, even though he got the loss as he allowed two runs (one earned) in six innings.

He is 2-0 against the Washington franchise, including a start against the Montreal Expos. Lackey has three straight quality starts against the Nationals.

Current Washington hitters are batting .297 in 165 at-bats against Lackey. But that includes outfielder Jayson Werth (7-for-18, .389), who is in the disabled list with a left foot contusion and is not expected back until after the All-Star break.

Look for Adam Lind, a part-time first baseman and left fielder, to get a shot against Lackey on Wednesday. The left-handed hitter is 18-for-43 in his career against the right-hander.

Ryan Zimmerman, the normal first baseman, is 4-for-12 against Lackey and is one of the top hitters in the National League. So Lind may get a start in left field, where Brian Goodwin has seen a lot of time since Werth was hurt in early June.

The Cubs are 17-22 on the road and trying to find that World Series magic.

“Last year was just a different vibe, a different start. Guys were having, simultaneously, career years. This year we’re not. Part of it is — we’re just not. And part of it is we’ve been impacted by injury,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

Maddon has been managing this series like the Cubs playoff lives are at stake — because they are.

“Every team goes through tests, every single season. Guys are hurt. This team’s no different,” said Heyward, who has been on the disabled list since June 19.