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Cubs 6, Nationals 3: We’re on the Kyle Hendricks 20-win watch

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The Professor and the sub Cubs won for the first time since the fire sale.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

With the massive sell-off of Cubs players by Jed Hoyer & Co. at Friday’s trade deadline, we don’t have much to look forward to for the rest of the 2021 season.

And while individual pitcher wins don’t mean what they used to, a 20-win season is still a significant milestone.

Kyle Hendricks put together another outstanding outing Saturday in Washington and helped lead the Cubs to a 6-3 win over the Nationals, posting his 13th win of the season. It was his 11th consecutive victory, and he became the first Cubs pitcher to record 13 wins before the beginning of August since Carlos Zambrano in 2007. It was also Kyle’s 15th straight start without a loss. The previous Cubs starter to do that was Jake Arrieta, from July 30, 2015-May 31, 2016.

With 56 games remaining in the season, Kyle should get 11 more starts. Posting a win in seven of them gets him to 20. I’ve always been a big Hendricks fan and hope he gets there.

Now, on to the details of this win. The Cubs scored in the first inning. Rafael Ortega led off the game with a single and two outs later, Patrick Wisdom hit a baseball that eluded Juan Soto [VIDEO].

Personally, I think that should have been scored a triple for Wisdom — that ball wouldn’t have been caught with “ordinary effort,” which is the usual standard. But the DC official scorer was likely protecting his pitcher, making the run unearned.

The Nats scored off Hendricks in the bottom of the first, tying the game 1-1.

Three innings later, the Cubs broke the game open. David Bote led off with a double and one out later, Sergio Alcántara drove him in [VIDEO].

Alcántara took second on the throw in, and scored on Andrew Romine’s double [VIDEO].

Romine, playing in his first game as a Cub, went 2-for-4. His appearance made 2021 the first year since 1978 that a pair of brothers played for the Cubs in the same season. In ‘78 it was the Reuschel brothers, Rick and Paul, who were Cubs teammates from 1975-78.

The fourth-inning scoring was completed by Rafael Ortega, who brought Romine in with a two-run homer [VIDEO].

Ortega had been nothing but a bit player, a journeyman, for four other teams from 2012-19 (with a lot of gaps in those years spent in the minors). That home run gives him a career high — three — in 119 plate appearances. He’s hitting .294/.347/.450, which is quite good, and is now at 0.7 bWAR. I’m still not convinced he’s somehow become an everyday MLB player at age 30, but this Cubs team now has the time to find out. If that happens to be the case — well then, great, the Cubs found another useful player on the scrap heap, just as they apparently have with Wisdom, who went 2-for-5 in this game and who now appears to be getting the ball-strike calls that he wasn’t just a couple of weeks ago.

The Cubs completed their scoring in the seventh. With two out, Wisdom singled and Bote walked. Jason Heyward, who’s having a very difficult season, singled in Wisdom [VIDEO].

Hendricks completed seven innings, throwing exactly 100 pitches (71 strikes), allowing four hits and a run and striking out three.

Rex Brothers entered to throw the eighth and promptly allowed the Nats to get back into the game. He allowed a double, walk and single for one run, and after another single David Ross replaced him with the newest Cubs reliever, Codi Heuer.

Heuer was quite efficient. He retired the next three hitters on just nine pitches. One of the outs was a fly ball that scored a run, charged to Brothers. Heuer touched 96 with his fastball and looked more like the guy who posted a 1.52 ERA in 21 outings for the White Sox in 2020 than this year’s South Side version. I’d like to see him get more high-leverage situations like this, he could be an important part of the 2022 bullpen.

Kyle Ryan was given the honors for a save opportunity in the ninth. I’ve never been a big fan of Ryan, but he got out of the inning facing just three batters (issued a walk, but got a double play ball to end it) in posting his second career save (he also had one last year).

This Cubs team is now obviously far out of any postseason contention, but wins are always nice. They’ll go for a series win Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park. Adbert Alzolay will take the mound for the Cubs and Erick Fedde is the scheduled starter for the Nats. Game time is 12:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network. Today’s game preview will post at 10:30 a.m. CT.