While it wasn’t pretty, the Cubs were able to sneak on out of Washington with a series win, taking two of three from the reeling Nationals. While Kyle Hendricks was on his game for the first four innings, he wasn’t able to finish this one off or go deep in the game like he’s done of late. Thankfully, the Cubs were able to put up enough runs early against Nats starter Jeremy Hellickson and reliever Kyle McGowin that it didn’t really matter. The bullpen tried to give it up, but they hung on for a 6-5 win in their third consecutive Sunday Night Baseball game.
This one started out auspiciously for the Cubs when the first three hitters did what no one in the lineup could do last night — walk. Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo started things up with the walking merry-go-round and it looked like this would be a very, very short night for Hellickson. Instead, Javier Báez hit into a fielder’s choice that scored the only run that the Cubs would manage to get that inning thanks to a double play turned on a Daniel Descalso grounder.
The Cubs offense continued to tack on one run per inning for the next three innings, making it seem like they were up by about 10 rather than just four. Or maybe it was the fact that Hendricks was dealing again early, not surrendering a hit until the bottom of the 5th inning, when Kurt Suzuki singled to left center.
In the 2nd inning, the Cubs got their second run after a Jason Heyward single, Albert Almora Jr. double, and Kyle Schwarber sacrifice fly. In the 3rd inning, Rizzo made things 3-0 Cubs on an oppo taco into the bullpen in left center. The Cubs got their run in the 4th when Schwarber hit another sac fly after an Almora leadoff double and a passed ball that sent him to third base.
While the Cubs’ streak of consecutive innings with a single run may have ended in the 5th inning, they got right back on the horse in the top of the 6th. A safety squeeze bunt by Hendricks brought Jason Heyward in and Bryant blooped one out above Brian Dozier in no-man’s land to plate Almora and make it 6-1 Cubs.
The wheels came off for Hendricks in the bottom of the 6th, when a couple overthrows and series of frozen ropes chased him after recording just two outs. Adding to the ominous feel to the inning, Addison Russell took over at shortstop for an injured Báez, who bruised his heel making a play on the slow bouncer of Nats’ pitcher Hellickson in the 3rd inning but tried toughing it out for a couple innings.
With the momentum clearly on the Nats’ side, the Cubs went down in order in the top of the 7th, then Howie Kendrick brought the Nats to within one run at 6-5 with a homer off of Brandon Kintzler. Between Kintzler, Xavier Cedeno, and Steve Cishek, the Cubs were able to get out of the rest of the inning unscathed, despite a lineout to end things by Rendon that nearly got over a leaping Russell at short.
Cishek, who got the last out of the 7th inning, was left in to pitch the 8th and then hit for himself, signaling he was definitely pitching in the 9th as well. It was his game to lose at that point, and he didn’t disappoint, slamming the door shut on any possible Nats comeback for a multi-inning save the Cubs’ pen desperately needed. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Won
Hendricks looked like he was on his way to another 8 or 9 inning shutout or one-run performance. That didn’t happen, but the Cubs were able to hang on thanks to some gritty relief work from Cishek for 2.1 innings. We can also thank the Nats for a couple more baserunning blunders that probably cost them the game.
Cubs fans held their collective breath in the bottom of the 3rd inning when Javy writhed on the ground for a few seconds before walking off a heel contusion. He continued in pain for a couple more innings, but came out of the game in the 6th inning and his status is uncertain going forward.
Stats that Matter
- Schwarber filled up the stat sheet again from the leadoff spot, with a hit, run, walk, and two RBI on sac flies. He also hit another ball over 100 mph for an out, but got it back with his hit in the 8th that wasn’t hit so well.
- Almora continued his hot hitting, smacking three more hits and adding two runs and a walk to boot.
- Cishek worked 2.1 scoreless innings for his fourth save of the year, closing things down when it started to look dire for the Cubs.
- After having no RISP chances last night, the Cubs were a completely different yet equally abysmal 1-for-11 tonight. This game should have been a laugher rather than a nail-biter.
The Cubs will be eating meatloaf on the flight back to Chicago, having beaten Max Scherzer on Friday night and squeaking one out tonight after a dud against Stephen Strasburg on Saturday. But a series win is a series win and they’ll look start a new streak after dropping their first series in the last 10 against the Reds earlier in the week.
The Cubs return home to Wrigley Field for the matchup of the year so far as old pal and Cubs hero, Jake Arrieta, returns to Wrigley with the Phillies to take on the guy who took his place, Yu Darvish. First pitch is 7:05pm CT on NBC Sports Chicago with (thankfully) Len and JD. As always, 670 The Score will carry the radio broadcast.