The Cubs are tired of playing the rest of the National League Central. The Nationals are just plain tired.
Washington will open a four-game set in Chicago on Monday after playing 24 innings in 22 hours against the Braves over the weekend. The Nationals won, 8-7, in a thrilling, 15-inning game Saturday night that spilled into Sunday morning. They took the field again 12 hours later and lost, 2-1.
All three games in the series were decided by one run.
"It's been kind of the story of the year so far," Jayson Werth said Friday. "We're pretty good enough to lose."
The Cubs are looking forward to moving outside the NL Central after playing three straight series, and 13 of their past 20 games, against division foes. They fell to 19-37 against the rest of their division, considered one of the best in baseball, after a 6-1 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday.
"They're a little different team now," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the Nats. "Bryce Harper is back now, and they've struggled for the year with the talent they have. It's four games, and they have a nice offense and a few different pieces. We have to score runs, obviously, to win period."
Jeff Samardzija will make his team-high 26th start for the Cubs. He has 31 strikeouts and just four walks against Washington in his career, but he has also been very inconsistent this season.
"It goes back to walks," Samardzija said after his last start, a no-decision. "Consistency is hand in hand with pitch efficiency. When you're putting 10 guys on in the game when you mix in five, six hits and a few walks, you're putting yourself in a situation where you have to battle and throw extra pitches and big pitches. With two outs and a guy's on first, those pitches aren't the same as one out and [runners on] second and third."
Jordan Zimmermann will look to win his NL-best 15th game of the season Monday. He is 0-2 with a 2.39 ERA in two career starts at Wrigley Field.
Cubs: Sveum shows Castro tough love
After benching Starlin Castro because of a mental gaffe in Saturday's 4-0 loss, Sveum said Sunday that Castro had learned his lesson.
"I think to be embarrassed on national TV and what's been written in the paper [Sunday] , I think that's plenty," Sveum said. "I don't think this kid can get better by not playing ... and understanding the adversity we all go through in the game."
Castro caught a pop fly with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth inning Saturday and absentmindedly lowered his head, allowing a runner to score from third. Sveum pulled Castro from the game, but reinserted the shortstop into the lineup Sunday. The 23-year-old played error-free defense and went 1-for-3.
"I have to pay for that," Castro said Saturday. "That's a mistake that can't happen in the game."
• Scott Baker made his second Minor League rehab start Sunday for Class A Advanced Daytona, throwing three innings of one-run ball. He allowed three hits, one of which was a home run.
The Cubs hope Baker, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, will be able to pitch in a Major League game this season.
Nationals: Back tightness doesn't stop Werth
Werth left Saturday night's game in the eighth inning with back tightness that has bothered him for a couple of days. But the tightness didn't keep him out of Sunday's rubber-match loss to the Braves, and it hasn't kept him from being the hottest hitter in the Nationals' lineup.
With an RBI single in the seventh inning, Werth extended his hitting streak to 10 games, the longest streak of his Nationals tenure. He is hitting .487 (19-for-39) during that span.
• Reliever Tanner Roark is excited to return to his home state of Illinois. Wrigley Field is less than 90 minutes away from Wilmington, his hometown.
"It's going to be awesome to see everybody," he said.
• After Stephen Strasburg was ejected Saturday night, eight Nationals relievers had a combined 19 strikeouts in the team's 15-inning victory, the most by a Major League bullpen in a single game since June 4, 1967.
• The Cubs are 2-13 in their past 15 home games.
Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.