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Cubs 6, Nationals 3: Pitching, defense and home runs

The Cubs had all three working for them in this win.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs began a series against the team with the worst record in baseball, the Washington Nationals, Monday evening at Wrigley Field.

Now, let’s be honest with ourselves — the Cubs aren’t that much better than the Nats at this juncture in baseball history.

But the Cubs were certainly good enough Monday, as they defeated Washington 6-3 behind solid pitching by Keegan Thompson, home runs by Nelson Velázquez and Christopher Morel, and some good defense on a pleasant evening at the ol’ ballyard.

The first two innings of this game seemed a lot like the weekend series against the Marlins, with hitters going down fairly meekly on both sides.

The Cubs then broke things open in the third. Velázquez led off the inning with a home run [VIDEO].

That was his first Wrigley homer after five on the road. I hope they were able to get the ball back to him.

Nick Madrigal followed with a walk — an unusual occurrence. Christopher Morel then made it 3-0 with this long ball [VIDEO].

That was Morel’s 10th of the year. He became the third Cub (Patrick Wisdom, Willson Contreras) to get to double digits in home runs in 2022 — and that’s in over 100 fewer plate appearances than Wisdom or Contreras.

Keegan Thompson, meanwhile, was allowing baserunners but getting out of innings unscathed, through the fifth. In the sixth, Luke Voit hit a solo homer off Thompson to make it 3-1, and the three outs in the inning were all well-struck fly balls to center. David Ross lifted Thompson after that inning. He’d thrown 85 pitches (51 strikes). Overall, it was another fine outing for Thompson.

The Cubs got that run back in the last of the sixth. Seiya Suzuki led off with a single and Patrick Wisdom singled him to third. Nico Hoerner’s single off former Cub Steve Cishek made it 4-1 [VIDEO].

The Cubs extended their lead in the seventh after a scoreless inning was thrown by Michael Rucker. Morel led off with an infield single and Rafael Ortega walked. Contreras singled Morel home [VIDEO].

One out later, Ortega stole third, after which he scored on this sac fly by Suzuki [VIDEO].

Brandon Hughes then entered to throw the eighth, and after he recorded the first two outs without incident, he allowed a single and two-run homer to bring the Nats to within three runs again at 6-3. With the Cubs not scoring in the last of the eighth, that made it a save situation for Rowan Wick.

Wick allowed a leadoff single, then struck out Cesar Hernandez.

What followed was something I don’t think I’ve seen before [VIDEO].

If that’s happened before, it’s got to be pretty rare — a strikeout-throw-out double play to end a game. Nice defensive work there by Contreras and Hoerner.

One more note on this game: Madrigal walked twice. That’s the first time he’s walked two times in a game in his 455-PA, 119-game MLB career.

One story I know you’re following is the announcement late Monday that the Cubs and Jason Heyward would part ways after the season, which Josh wrote up here yesterday. I’ll have more thoughts about all that later this morning.

In the meantime, the 2022 season continues, and the Cubs and Nationals will play the second of their three-game set at Wrigley Field Tuesday evening. Marcus Stroman will start for the Cubs and Paolo Espino gets the call for Washington. Game time is again 7:05 p.m. CT and TV converage will be via Marquee Sports Network.