Cubs-Nationals preview

BY foxsports • June 15, 2016

WASHINGTON -- Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon wouldn't bite in a pregame media conference. He was asked about the importance of the three-game series that began in Washington on Monday against the Nationals.

"Every game is important," Maddon said.

But the Cubs skipper did admit to looking ahead somewhat.

"I did look at lineups for tomorrow, us versus Gonzalez," Maddon said of facing Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez on Tuesday.

But it is hard to predict which Gonzalez the Cubs will face in the second game of the series. The veteran lefty from Miami won 21 games in 2012 in his first season in Washington but has been very erratic over the past two seasons.

Gonzalez has lost his last four decisions after starting the year in a positive note under new manager Dusty Baker and first-year pitching coach Mike Maddux.

Gonzalez (3-5, 3.93 ERA) will face Chicago right-hander John Lackey (7-2, 2.63 ERA) after Washington's Max Scherzer started against Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks on Monday in a 4-1 victory. Scherzer took a perfect game into the sixth, and the rest of the series could see more solid pitching.

Gonzalez has the highest ERA of any of the six probable starters in the series. The lowest belongs to the Cubs' Jason Hammel (2.36), slated to start Wednesday.

Lackey made his pro debut in 1999 with Boise -- now a farm team of the Cubs -- and made his major league debut in 2002 with the Los Angeles Angels.

He won 10 games for the first time in 2003 and reached double digits every season through 2011, then did not pitch in 2012 due to injury.

The veteran right-hander was 10-13 with Boston in 2013 and then 11-7 with the Red Sox in 2014 and also 3-3 with the St. Louis Cardinals that year.

Lackey was 13-10 last season with the Cardinals before he signed a two-year contact with the Cubs on Dec. 8, 2015. Hammel notes the Cubs were familiar with Lackey since they faced him when he played for St. Louis.

Baker also tried to downplay the importance of the series with the Cubs, who took four straight in Chicago last month against the Nationals.

"They are the best right now in our league," Baker said. "You can't bring it back (after losing those four in the Windy City)."

How does Baker approach the series? "With a positive attitude, wins and no negatives," he said.

A former Cubs manager, Baker was asked if he measures his team against the Cubs.

"I believe in measuring against yourselves. How can we get better? You can give them the pennant right now if you want to," he said to media members.

Baker, however, won't do that.



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