This game was just enough.
Just enough good pitching and just enough runs scored to give the Cubs a 3-2 win over the Nationals in the series finale in Washington. That gave the Cubs four straight series in which they’ve won two of three, an 8-4 mark over those 12 games and combined with some other recent good play, the team is now 15-10 since July 17. They also wrapped the 2022 season series against Washington with this one, winning four of the six games played.
Drew Smyly got touched up for a run in the second inning, but otherwise settled down and breezed through the fourth. He had some defensive help from Ian Happ [VIDEO].
The Cubs then took the lead in the fifth.
Rafael Ortega led off that inning with a walk and two outs later, P.J. Higgins smacked a baseball over the wall at Nats Park [VIDEO].
For Higgins, that was his sixth home run of the season in just 119 plate appearances. He’s versatile — can play first and third base as well as catch — and appears to have solidified a claim on a roster spot for 2023.
Smyly, who had earlier had to throw 15 pitches to Nelson Cruz in the fourth before striking him out, entered the sixth inning having thrown 91 pitches. He might not have had a run charged to him after he left the game if not for some sketchy defense. Smyly got the first out of the sixth but then gave up a double to Joey Meneses, and was removed for Erich Uelmen after 100 pitches.
Uelmen, whose specialty is the ground ball, got two of them, but recorded outs on neither. Luke Voit hit a ground ball to Zach McKinstry, who couldn’t retire Voit with Higgins and Uelmen getting signals crossed at first base, with Meneses advancing to third. Then this happened [VIDEO].
It appeared the Cubs had an inning-ending double play, but both calls were challenged by Dave Martinez. The call at second was ruled “call stands,” giving the Cubs the second out, but the call at first was overturned, and a run scored, tying the game.
Still, it was another outstanding outing for Smyly, who now has a 1.06 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in three August starts, with 17 strikeouts and only three walks in 17 innings this month.
The Cubs took the lead back in the top of the seventh. Franmil Reyes led off with a double, his second of the game. This guy has just been outstanding so far. Yes, it’s a small sample size (seven games), but this looks like a steal for Jed Hoyer & Co.
Before today's game, Franmil Reyes said he believes the "change of scenery" dynamic can be real.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 17, 2022
"Of course, yeah," Reyes said. "Because my confidence went from 20 percent to like over 120 percent."
He ropes another double. Now slashing .379/.379/.759 in first 29 ABs with Cubs.
Anyway, after Nelson Velázquez and Patrick Wisdom struck out, Yan Gomes drove in the lead run [VIDEO].
Steven Brault, just activated from the COVID-19 list for this game, entered to throw the seventh, and after a 1-2-3 seventh, he remained in the game to pitch the eighth. He allowed a one-out double in that inning, but gave up no runs and struck out a pair, throwing 27 pitches (18 strikes). Brault looks like a great acquisition, too, and now that he’s definitely a reliever, could be useful this year and next in a multi-inning role. And even if that doesn’t work out, maybe he can sing the National Anthem at Wrigley Field:
I was a bit surprised when Rowan Wick was summoned to nail down the one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, especially after he threw 24 pitches Tuesday evening (and didn’t have a good outing). Shaking off that bad appearance, he disposed of the Nats 1-2-3. Here’s the final out, a comebacker [VIDEO].
The Cubs’ record in one-run games improved to 15-22 on the season, which isn’t good, but they’re 5-4 in one-run affairs since the aforementioned July 17 date, and overall in that 25-game span this team has generally played quite well. As I’ve noted previously, squint and you can see the beginnings of a contending team in 2023 — if Hoyer and the front office address certain necessities. “As always, we await developments.”
The Cubs will hang out in the mid-Atlantic region for one more day to play a makeup game Thursday afternoon against the Orioles in Baltimore (from a rainout back in June). Adrian Sampson will start for the Cubs and Spenser Watkins will go for the O’s. Game time Thursday is 2:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.