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LEADING OFF: Cubs visit White House, Francona to return

Those two surreal worlds will collide again on Wednesday when a group of Cubs get a private White House tour that can be interpreted as a political statement, something larger than this four-game series against the Washington Nationals.Manager Joe Maddon and some of the Chicago Cubs will visit the White House on Wednesday, a;though it’s not an official visit with President Donald Trump. “I don’t have any rules to begin with”, he said. Maddon’s curiosity has more to do with his team than the Nationals (45-31), who appear to be coasting toward the National League East title. However, Baez singled in the eighth inning and had an RBI double in the ninth as Chicago held on for a 5-4 win on Monday night despite four runs in the bottom of the ninth by the Nationals. Maddon hopes his team can get healthy in time for second half of the season. Listen, I like the United States a lot. Tuesday could also be the best pitching matchup of the four-game set.The Chicago Sun-Times polled 22 of the team’s 27 players this week, finding that 12 planned to go on the trip and 10 would decline.Gio Gonzalez (7-2) allowed a run and two hits, striking out eight over six innings. Both runs he surrendered were unearned.Cubs hitters are 20-for-97 (.206) against Gonzalez, who has been with Washington since 2012.”That’s why I really appreciate the repeat champions, especially two or three times because they don’t get any rest in the wintertime”. The left-hander will carry an impressive 2.96 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 87/40 K/BB ratio into Monday’s start against the Cubs. The former Baltimore Orioles starter is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three starts at Nationals Park, the most recent on June 4, 2015.Even though Arrieta isn’t looking like the ace from past year, he still has given up two runs or less in four of his last five starts, while Scherzer hasn’t given up more than two runs in any of his last six starts, striking out double digits in each of those six. In his last start on Thursday, Arrieta threw seven innings of one-run ball in an 11-1 win at Miami. Scherzer picked up his second RBI of the year with a single in the fourth to make it 3-1. He was 1-1 with a 6.00 ERA in two starts against the Cubs previous year. Ben Zobrist has three homers against Scherzer, but the super utility player is on the disabled list. Hendricks doesn’t expect to be back before the All-Star break.”We pitched really well but arguably one of our best pitchers had the roughest night”, Maddon said. So that’s just the difference, and that’s OK, because these guys now are getting the kind of experience that is going to be very beneficial to us in August and September. I’m not quite there, but definitely improving. “Whatever (Tom) Ricketts would like me to do I’m going to do”.”I was expecting to hear bad, but I haven’t”, Maddon told reporters after a 4-2 loss to the Marlins.