WASHINGTON — With so much attention focused on Daniel Murphy's return to Washington for the first time since he was traded to the Chicago Cubs, it was his in-game replacement — David Bote — who once again tormented the Nationals.
Bote had a pinch-hit RBI double and scored in the 10th inning as the Cubs came back to beat the Nationals 6-4 on Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series.
Bote, who hit a two-out grand slam in the bottom of the ninth to give the Cubs a 4-3 win over Washington on Aug. 12 at Wrigley Field, knocked a 100 mph fastball from Jimmy Cordero (1-2) into right field to score Albert Almora Jr. Bote came home on a single by pinch-hitter Taylor Davis.
Bote, who finished the game at second base, was certain Nats fans hadn't forgotten what he did in Chicago last month.
"I heard the boos today," Bote said. "I love it. It's fun. You love to be part of that."
Murphy went 1 for 5 with a strikeout during his first game in Washington since he was dealt to the Cubs on Aug 21.
While Chicago has the best record in the National League and leads the NL Central by 4½ games over Milwaukee, manager Joe Maddon is still looking to tighten up some things and admits he becomes a perfectionist at times.
"We've got to work better at-bats," Maddon said. "I'm talking about October, I'm not just talking about Sept. 6. I love the fight, tremendous fight, but there's little things now that have held us back in the past that I don't want to see hold us back now."
Washington has lost three straight to fall to 69-72. The Nationals are three games under .500 for the first time since April 30.
Pedro Strop (5-1) pitched a scoreless ninth, and Jesse Chavez earned his third save.
Washington took a 3-2 lead in the fourth when Mark Reynolds belted his 13th homer of the season, a two-run shot to left field.
Murphy scored on Ben Zobrist's sacrifice fly to tie it at 3 in the fifth.
Spencer Kieboom had a career-high three hits for Washington.
Stephen Strasburg pitched 5 2/3 innings for the Nationals, allowing six hits while walking three and striking out six. He gave up three runs, two earned, while throwing 111 pitches — his most since tossing a season-high 115 on May 20.
Despite being traded away, Murphy had nothing but positives to say about Nationals manager Dave Martinez.
"I thought that in the midst of a lot of trials he was always positive," Murphy said. "I thought we always played hard for him, which I think is a reflection of the manager. I wish I would have been able to play more for him. I wish I would have been able to (play) better for him."
Strasburg and Murphy were teammates from 2016 until last month, and in that time the Nationals pitcher tried to learn a thing or two about hitting from the 2015 NLCS MVP. "Yeah, he talks a lot about hitting, so I eavesdropped on him for a few years," Strasburg said. "So, kind of knew what he was trying to do and have him avoid trying to barrel the ball."
Cubs: Maddon said OF Kyle Schwarber (back) is day to day. Schwarber left Wednesday's game after hitting his 25th home run. He pinch-hit in the sixth Thursday, reaching on a walk. ... RHP Brandon Morrow (right biceps inflammation) will throw from the mound Sunday, but his long-term plan is still uncertain. "Every time he does something we have to evaluate it afterwards and make sure everything is well," Maddon said. "That's where it's at right now."
Nationals: 1B Ryan Zimmerman was rested and then used as a pinch-hitter in the ninth.
Cubs: LHP Jon Lester (15-5, 3.53 ERA) will start in Washington for the first time since the 2017 NL Division Series. Lester is 2-2 with a 4.25 ERA in seven career starts against the Nationals.
Nationals: RHP Joe Ross makes his season debut and first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2017. Ross is 0-2 with a 3.44 ERA in three career starts versus the Cubs.