It’s not good when a team like the Nationals, who also sold any good player that existed on their lineup over the trade deadline, ends up beating you in the series. We have some dark days ahead with this team.
In the meantime, Rafael Ortega has decided this is his team now, as he cements himself as the new leadoff hitter for the club while garnering eight hits and batting in eight runs this series, including today’s three-homer effort. That’s him being directly responsible for 57% of the Cubs’ total runs this series, if you’re keeping track. Despite considering him a below-average outfielder, he’s the only reason the Cubs were even kind of in this series at all, so he deserves some recognition.
Patrick Wisdom is also making some good plays at first base, since we all need some good news. Unfortunately, he was also a part of some ugly plays like in today’s game when the ball was hit right past him despite his diving effort to stop it from getting to the outfield. Hopefully with some more time on first base regularly he will get the hang of things and be more reliable there.
July 30, 2021
Cubs 3, Nationals 4
WP: Espino (3-2) LP: Arrieta (5-10)
Yep, we’re back to playing Jake Arrieta now after trading Trevor Williams and until players like Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele are “stretched out” enough to start, as the Marquee announcers can’t stop reminding us. Arrieta, as usual, only pitched four innings and allowed 7 hits and 2 runs during his tenure on the mound. One of those hits was a homer in the 2nd inning that gave the Nationals the lead, and then an error in the 3rd inning gave the Nats the 2-1 lead, as the throw to first was unable to be completed on an infield hit.
Rafael Ortega started his tear in the 3rd inning as he doubled to score new full-time shortstop Sergio Alcantara, who doubled earlier in the game as well. However, the Cubs allowed a home run in the 5th inning off of new pitcher Michael Rucker, and in the 6th inning a fly ball to Ortega in center field went way over his head when he tried to catch it, allowing for a base hit and a 4-1 Nats lead.
The Cubs tried to get back in it in the 8th inning, when Patrick Wisdom was able to hit a ball past the third baseman into left field to score Ortega and Contreras. Despite Heyward singling in the 9th inning, the Cubs batted into a double play and a diving catch by the Nats’ shortstop kept Sergio Alcantara from extending the game.
July 31, 2021
Cubs 6, Nationals 3
WP: Hendricks (13-4) LP: Ross (5-9)
Ortega again started things off in the 1st inning by singling; he then stole 2nd base when Ian Happ predictably struck out swinging. Wisdom then hit the ball to right field, the outfielder just missing the catch and giving Ortega the chance to score.
Kyle Hendricks, additionally, was the starter who won his 11th straight game for the Cubs. Things were a little tense to begin his outing, though, as he allowed a fly ball to Yadiel Hernandez, one that neither Happ nor Ortega could field properly, allowing the Nats to tie things up quickly. Luckily, Hendricks was all but nails for the rest of his time out, allowing no more runs and pitching for 7 full innings, ending the day with only four hits allowed and a walk with three strikeouts.
The Cubs broke the game open in the 4th inning after a deluge of offense from some unlikely (and new) faces. David Bote doubled to start things off, hitting a ball to far left field. Later, Sergio Alcantara hit another ball to far left to score Bote, which the Nats’ outfielder also failed to catch. Andrew Romine (yes, older brother of Austin Romine, because Chicago sports teams can’t seem to stop acquiring brothers to put in the lineup together) had his second hit of the night, a double to score Alcantara. Then Ortega hit another home run, as he is wont to do these days, to give the Cubs a commanding 5-1 lead by the end of the inning. Jason Heyward even joined in on the offensive fun, driving in David Bote in the 7th to make it 6-1.
As soon as Kyle Hendricks was pulled in the 8th, Rex Brothers gave up his usual deluge: a double, a walk, a single, and another single to make it 6-2 Nationals. With no outs. So it became time to bring up Codi Heuer, the reliever from the White Sox we received in exchange for Craig Kimbrel (and really the only player we traded for who can currently play in the MLB). Heuer has a lot to prove among Cubs fans; he was okay in his rookie season last year but looks much worse this season, with a 5.12 ERA and his 22 runs allowed in 40 games started…yeeikes.
Despite being put in a bases loaded situation with zero outs, Heuer got the job done with the help of the defense behind him. He got the Nats batter to ground into a force out, as Bote threw the ball to Contreras to get the out at home. Heuer then gave up a sacrifice fly ball to center field, with Ortega making the catch. Then, he gave up a ground ball that was easily fielded to Wisdom from Romine. The Cubs made a successful double play to end the game with a win.
August 1, 2021
Cubs 5, Nationals 6
WP: Finnegan (4-2) LP: Rodriguez (0-1)
Ortega started this rainy game off with a solo homer, because of course he did. A groundout and two strikeouts later, however, ended the inning with no more offense. Robinson Chirinos, the catcher of the day, had a line drive robbed by a Nats outfielder in the 2nd, and a strikeout after him by Alcantara kept the score 1-0.
It was not Adbert Alzolay’s day, as he had an especially difficult third inning. A single and a sacrifice bunt put a runner on second base. Then an intentional walk and a Josh Bell single scored two more Nationals runs. Josh Bell’s single was a nightmare, a catastrophe of epic proportions for the Cubs defense. The ball was hit to left, thrown to home by Happ to try and stop the home plate runner, but thrown wildly off base, so Chirinos threw to second, also off base, allowing Juan Soto to score also because nobody was covering home…I shudder just thinking about this play. We are bad. Let’s move on.
Another Nats single scored one more runner, a wild pitch advanced Yadiel Hernandez to second base, Luis Garcia was walked, and finally Alzolay was able to strike out Carter Kieboom to end the 3rd. Alzolay only pitched five innings, allowing seven hits and four of the six Nationals runs. He walked four batters and struck out four as well. But thanks to the Cubs not exactly giving up offensively, he was off the hook for the loss.
Bote had multiple grounders and line drives fly right past him at second base today, which is painful to watch. Josh Bell just one inning later in the 4th hit the ball right over him, scoring Rene Rivera to make it 4-1 Nats in a bases-loaded situation.
Romine got himself on first base with the 6th inning, and Ortega homered him home to make it a one-run game, the Cubs suddenly only trailing 4-3. Adam Morgan got the outs necessary in the 6th to keep things rolling, but it was Kyle Ryan who gave up a solo homer to Yadiel Hernandez in the 7th to extend the Nats’ lead. Ortega once again homered — his THIRD of the game, if you’re counting — to score two more Cubs runners in the 8th inning to tie it, putting the offense of his team solely on his back in amazing fashion and for now making up for his iffy play in the outfield.
Heuer was again put in for the 8th inning today, and gave up a single, a sac bunt and an intentional walk before Alcantara and Wisdom threw themselves a double play to end the inning. A bit of a shaky appearance, but don’t worry, this was totally worth Craig Kimbrel. Manuel Rodriguez, pitching in his second-ever MLB game, replaced Heuer in the bottom of the 9th, and he gave up a leadoff solo homer to Hernandez to give the Nats the walk-off win.
Life rolls on aimlessly for the Cubs as they face the Colorado Rockies this week, another garbage team who didn’t trade Trevor Story at the deadline and therefore threw their organization into even more internal turmoil than it was already in. The Cubs are still trying to find their footing post-deadline, so having another weak opponent is…good, I guess?
The secret to winning for the Cubs will probably be getting offense from people not named Rafael Ortega, but Ortega should continue his home run tear if he can help it. The lost season continues; see you soon. Go Cubs go!