The Chicago Cubs have faced their share of poor offenses recently, but the quality of competition figures to ramp back up in fairly short order. Boasting only an 11-10 record since the Midsummer Classic, the Cubs hope to find some more consistency beginning this weekend when they host the Washington Nationals on Friday in the opener of a three-game set.

Chicago hasn't won more than two games in a row since the All-Star break and didn't take much advantage of what appeared to be a break in the schedule over the last week, winning four of seven against last-place clubs San Diego (13th in the National League in runs) and Kansas City (last in the majors). The Cubs enter this series after a day off to lick their wounds following a 9-0 defeat against the Royals in which they mustered only three singles, although they remain two games ahead of Milwaukee atop the NL Central. The Nationals are the NL's highest-scoring team since the break, averaging 5.9 runs over that time while scoring at least seven runs six times. Washington is coming off a 7-3 homestand and a four-game series split with Atlanta, taking Thursday's finale 6-3 to move 4 1/2 games behind the Braves for second place in the NL East and also in the race for the second wild card.

TV: 2:20 p.m. ET, MLB Network, MASN (Washington), NBCS Chicago

PITCHING MATCHUP: Nationals RH Jeremy Hellickson (5-2, 3.56 ERA) vs. Cubs RH Kyle Hendricks (8-9, 4.07)

Hellickson held the opposition to three earned runs or fewer for the 15th time in 16 outings following Saturday's win against Cincinnati, yielding two runs - both on homers - on four hits over 5 2/3 innings. The 31-year-old has made 11 of his starts on the road this season, going 4-2 with a 3.10 ERA while allowing only three homers and walking 10 across 52 1/3 frames. Hellickson lost his only career start in Wrigley Field last season, surrendering six runs over four innings.

Hendricks struck out at least seven for a third consecutive turn and won for the third time in four decisions Saturday against San Diego despite permitting four runs in 5 2/3 frames. The Dartmouth product has only recorded 10 quality starts in 23 trips to the mound in 2018, doing so only twice over his last nine outings. Daniel Murphy (3-for-13) and Adam Eaton (3-for-7) have homered twice while Mark Reynolds is 4-for-5 against Hendricks, who is 2-2 with a 2.67 ERA in five starts versus Washington.


1. Nationals OF Bryce Harper (right knee soreness) was scratched from Thursday's lineup. He is tentatively expected to play Friday.

2. Chicago 1B Anthony Rizzo is hitting .370 over his last seven games and needs one hit to reach 1,000 for his career.

3. Washington 1B Ryan Zimmerman is batting .400 with six doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs over his last nine contests.

PREDICTION: Nationals 6, Cubs 3