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Cubs 4, Nationals 2: This time, the four-run seventh-inning rally held up

The Cubs won their second straight home series.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Didn’t we see this game last night?

The Cubs went behind in the middle innings, then had a seventh-inning rally with lots of hits and took the lead.

On a sun-kissed afternoon at Wrigley Field Wednesday, though, instead of blowing that lead, the Cubs held on behind good relief work from Brandon Hughes and Rowan Wick and defeated the Nationals 4-2, winning two of three for the second straight home series.

Justin Steele continued his strikeout ways. Better, though, was Steele getting through six good innings without walking a single batter. He struck out nine. Here are all nine of Steele’s Ks [VIDEO].

Steele’s only mistakes were an RBI double by Cesar Hernandez in the second and a solo homer by Joey Menenses (who hit three homers in the series).

Let’s talk about that RBI double for a moment, because... well, it really shouldn’t have been [VIDEO].

Seriously, a major-league center fielder has to keep that ball in front of him. If that happens, that’s just a single and no run scores.

I continue to be mystified as to why Rafael Ortega is in the lineup. He’s 31 years old and clearly not part of this team’s future. The Cubs just made a big deal about saying Jason Heyward’s being let go (and won’t play again this year) because the team has young outfielders they want to look at.

So why isn’t Nelson Velázquez in the lineup every single day in center field (or, another position)? It makes no sense to keep running Ortega out there, and in the leadoff spot? For a guy who came into this game with a .322 OBP? There have to be better choices, David Ross.

Anyway, the Cubs were completely stymied through six innings by Josiah Gray, who came into this game having allowed 13 home runs over his last 30⅔ innings. Go figure, right? Gray got some help from Victor Robles, who made this outstanding catch on a sinking liner by P.J. Higgins in the fifth [VIDEO].

So, the game went to the bottom of the seventh with the Cubs trailing 2-0. Michael Rucker had relieved Steele and thrown a nice 1-2-3 top of the seventh and he’s pitched better lately.

Nico Hoerner made it 2-1 leading off the seventh [VIDEO].

That was Nico’s seventh of the year, giving him a chance at double-digit home runs.

One out later, Yan Gomes singled and that was it for Gray. Ex-Cub Steve Cishek walked Higgins, putting runners on first and second.

That brought up Nick Madrigal [VIDEO].

That was a terrible throw by Robles; he had no chance at Patrick Wisdom (who had run for Gomes). That tied the game, but more importantly, put runners on second and third with one out.

Ortega atoned for his misplay with this sac fly that gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead [VIDEO].

Madrigal took third, where he scored on this single by Ian Happ [VIDEO].

The Cubs thus took a 4-2 lead into the eighth. Could they record six outs without giving up two runs?

Yes, as it turned out. Hughes got the first two outs of the eighth, then walked Meneses, and Ross called on Wick, who allowed a two-out single, then got Maikel Franco on strikes.

The ninth was a 1-2-3 inning for Wick, and here’s the final out [VIDEO].

That was a really nice pitch, 96 right down the middle. I have been critical of Wick here, but I’ll take that back, as he’s been really good lately. He now has 10 consecutive scoreless outings covering 11⅔ innings, in which he’s allowed nine hits and three walks (1.029 WHIP) and struck out 13. The save today was his sixth, and it looks like the closer role is now his to lose. I hope he continues this dominance, during which his season ERA has dropped from 5.30 to 4.02.

So the Cubs complete a successful homestand in which they meatloafed both series. They’ve now won seven of their last nine home games, and after a terrible start at home this year this team seems to finally be finding ways to win at Wrigley Field.

One more good note: Newly-acquired Franmil Reyes had two hits, both singles, and he’s 3-for-8 since joining the Cubs. Hopefully some power hitting will follow.

The win, combined with the Reds’ loss to the Mets, put the Cubs alone in third place in the NL Central, for whatever that’s worth.

Thursday, of course, the Cubs and Reds will meet in Dyersville, Iowa in MLB’s second Field of Dreams Game. I’ll be heading to Dyersville to report from there as lefthanders Drew Smyly (Cubs) and Nick Lodolo (Reds) face each other in the nationally-televised game (no blackouts!) on Fox-TV at 6:15 p.m. CT. Should be a blast.