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CHC@PHI: Wood allows three hits over eight innings

There's no doubt Travis Wood is happy to stay home and pitch at Wrigley Field.

The 27-year-old lefty sports a 2.93 ERA and 1.09 WHIP at home, but a 6.07 ERA and 1.63 WHIP on the road. On Thursday night at Wrigley Field, he'll face Doug Fister in the opener of a four-game set between the Nationals and Cubs.

After getting rocked on May 30 in Milwaukee for seven runs in 2 2/3 innings, Wood has settled down in June. He's posted a 2.96 ERA and has held opponents to a .225 average, .327 on-base percentage and .337 slugging percentage this month.

One problem for Wood, though, has been walks. He's issued at least three free passes in six of his last nine starts, and in Saturday's loss to the Pirates, he couldn't make quick work of any batters over 4 2/3 innings.

"The last couple innings, his pitch count started elevating," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "They were fouling off pitches, they were getting on base, so I was hoping he would maybe get through that fifth with 94, 95 pitches and I was going to send him back out for the sixth because we were going to see if we could get one more inning out of him. It just didn't work out."

Fister, meanwhile, has given up just six free passes all season. After starting the year on the disabled list, the former Mariners and Tigers right-hander has been stellar for the Nationals. He sports a 6-2 record, a 2.65 ERA, a 6.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 1.04 WHIP in nine outings. Fister has held opponents to two runs or fewer in seven of his nine starts, and he tossed eight scoreless innings in a 3-0 win over the Braves on Saturday.

"He controlled the strike zone, [threw] all of his pitches for strikes, [worked] ahead in the count," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "All of those things pitchers do when they go deep in the game."

Fister will try to get Washington back on track following a 9-2 loss in the Nationals' series finale with the Brewers on Wednesday. Despite the defeat, the National League East leaders have won six of their last nine games.

Nationals: Harper goes deep in rehab start
On the disabled list since tearing a ligament in his left thumb in April, Bryce Harper went 2-for-3 with a three-run homer on Tuesday in his second rehab game with Class A Advanced Potomac. Harper also saw some action in center field, playing five innings, two more than he played in his first start, on Monday.

In the fifth inning, Salem Red Sox righty Kyle Kraus left a 3-1 slider up in the zone, and Harper turned on it.

"That felt really good," Harper said. "I got into a good hitting count and put some good wood on the ball and let it go a little bit."

The Nationals planned to re-evaluate Harper's thumb on Wednesday, but the outfielder said it felt great.

Cubs: Castro surpasses last season's RBI total
Starlin Castro is batting .360 (18-for-50) in his last 13 games, and has already surpassed his RBI total of 44 from last season after knocking in his 45th run of the year with a fourth-inning single in Wednesday's 4-1 loss to the Reds. His increased run production is due in part to the Cubs' decision to bat Castro cleanup in 54 games.

Castro is second among National League shortstops with a .287 batting average and 87 hits, trailing only the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki in those categories.

"He's a young man who has the ability to put the bat on the ball," Renteria said of Castro. "The more I see him, he's getting bigger, he's filling out. He's turning into -- I don't want to say a man, because he's a man already -- but you can start to see the size and maturity of his body come together."

Worth noting
• Manny Ramirez, whom the Cubs signed to a Minor League contract to be a player/coach, will join Triple-A Iowa on Thursday as the club takes on the Colorado Springs Sky Sox in a doubleheader.

• Emilio Bonifacio has yet to begin baseball activities as part of his rehab. Renteria said Bonifacio was making progress, but there is no timetable for his return. The 29-year-old has been on the disabled list with a right oblique strain since June 13.

• The Nationals recalled right-hander Taylor Hill from Triple-A Syracuse on Wednesday to bolster a bullpen that was worked hard in Washington's 16-inning win over the Brewers on Tuesday. Hill made his Major League debut in Wednesday's 9-2 loss to Milwaukee, allowing two runs on five hits 3 1/3 innings of relief. Hill was 9-2 with a 1.92 ERA in 15 games for Syracuse, including three complete games and a save.

• The Nationals are batting .232 against right-handed pitching this season, but .280 against left-handers.

• Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth is 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in his career against Wood.

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