After hitting no higher than .210 with the Los Angeles Dodgers in each of the past two seasons, Cody Bellinger signed with the Chicago Cubs in December looking to revive his career
Despite going 0-for-3 in Chicago's 11-5 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, Bellinger has been sizzling in July, going 20-for-45 (.444) with five homers, 13 RBIs and 13 runs.
"It's awesome seeing Belli back to that MVP Belli," Cubs right-hander Marcus Stroman said. "I kind of said it in spring training (that a) change of scenery can be a great thing for guys.
Bellinger's production hasn't translated to team success, though, as Chicago is 5-7 in July and has alternated wins and losses over the past eight games.
The Cubs have struggled in the absence of shortstop Dansby Swanson, who hasn't played since July 5 due to a left heel contusion. He was eligible to come off the 10-day injured list on Sunday, but Chicago manager David Ross said Swanson wasn't ready to return just yet
"(He) feels good hitting," Ross said of Swanson. "He was ... taking reps in the field for ground balls. A little timid coming in on slow rollers or stuff like that."
Chicago left-hander Drew Smyly (7-6, 4.31 ERA) will look for the offense to be more consistent when he makes his 19th start of the season on Monday.
In his most recent outing, Smyly allowed four runs on six hits in four innings against the New York Yankees on July 8. He walked four and struck out three in a 6-3 loss.
Smyly is 2-0 with a 3.02 ERA in nine career appearances (seven starts) against the Nationals. He earned a win at Washington on May 1 when he threw seven innings of one-run ball
Nationals left-hander MacKenzie Gore (4-7, 4.42 ERA) will oppose Smyly after going just 1 1/3 innings against the Cincinnati Reds on July 6. He surrendered no runs and one hit and struck out one before a rain delay cut his outing short
In his previous start, Gore was shelled for seven runs and six hits in 2 2/3 innings against the Philadelphia Phillies on July 1.
Gore is 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in two career starts versus the Cubs. He lost to Smyly and Chicago on May 1, when he yielded four runs on seven hits in four-plus innings
The Nationals have lost seven of their past 10 games, including an 8-4 loss on Sunday in the rubber game of a three-game road series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Like the Cubs, they have been playing without one of their core players
Third baseman Jeimer Candelario left the Friday contest with a bone bruise in his right thumb, and he missed the past two games. Candelario, who is batting .260 with 13 homers and 43 RBIs, is listed as day-to-day.
"I think at this point, after talking to trainers, it's pain tolerance," Washington manager Dave Martinez said. "He feels good."
--Field Level Media