Happ Homers Twice as Cubs beat Nationals

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Chicago Cubs’ Ian Happ hits a two-run home run off Washington Nationals starting pitcher Joe Ross during the third inning of a baseball game Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHICAGO (AP) — Playing without two of their biggest bats, the Chicago Cubs found enough offense once again.

Ian Happ led the way.

Happ homered twice and drove in three runs, helping Chicago beat the Washington Nationals 5-2 on Thursday.

Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras got the day off for rest, but the Cubs went ahead to stay on Happ’s two-run shot into the basket in right with two out in the third inning. He also led off the fifth with his sixth homer on a 0-2 pitch from Austin Voth with the wind blowing out on a warm afternoon at Wrigley Field.

Nick Martini had a sacrifice fly and Joc Pederson singled home a run as Chicago won for the fifth time in seven games.

“Guys are starting to get healthy and in their rhythm as we talked about,” manager David Ross said. “Got a ton of confidence in these guys. It is a balanced offense. I think we’re taking advantage of the things the other team gives us.”

It was Happ’s first multihomer game since Sept. 5 against St. Louis and No. 8 for his big league career. The switch-hitting outfielder is batting .375 (12 for 32) with five homers and 10 RBIs in eight May games.

“I think I hit some balls early in the season that were probably, on a day like today, would have been homers,” Happ said. “Just continuing to stay with that approach.”

Pederson also is rolling along nicely for Chicago, which moved back over .500 at 22-21. He collected two more hits and is batting .417 (20 for 48) in his last 12 games.

Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber hit back-to-back homers for Washington in the first, but Joe Ross (2-4) lasted just 3 2/3 innings in his second straight loss. The right-hander was charged with four runs, two earned, and five hits.

“Threw a lot more changeups today, which for the most part felt good, but a couple of them got hurt,” Ross said.

The last-place Nationals (17-23) dropped three of four against the Cubs, closing out a 3-4 trip. Manager Dave Martinez said ace right-hander Stephen Strasburg will come off the injured list to start Friday night against Baltimore in the opener of a nine-game homestand.

“It’s just a matter of time before things really start clicking, things start going our way, and we start putting some streaks together where we’re winning a lot more of these games,” Martinez said.

Trevor Williams pitched 4 2/3 innings of five-hit ball before Chicago’s bullpen took over. Justin Steele (2-0) got four outs before departing because of right hamstring tightness. Ryan Tepera and Andrew Chafin each worked an inning, and Craig Kimbrel earned his ninth save in 11 chances.

The Cubs’ bullpen has a scoreless streak of 17 1/3 innings over the team’s last five games. It began the day with a 3.24 ERA for the season, second-best in the NL.

Steele replaced Williams with Josh Harrison aboard after a leadoff double. After issuing a walk to Juan Soto, he struck out Bell swinging to preserve Chicago’s 4-2 lead.

Chafin got some help when second baseman Nico Hoerner robbed Bell of a hit with a diving stop in the eighth.

“Pretty impressive play,” Ross said. “He continues to wow with the glove. He’s just an all-around great baseball player.”

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