Funny thing about Nico Hoerner’s first career grand slam, the homer that blew open this game in the eighth inning and gave the Cubs an 8-3 win over the Nationals: Nico and the Nats pitcher he hit the slam against, Cory Abbott, were teammates in the Cubs system at Double-A Tennessee in 2019 and Triple-A Iowa in 2021, as well as with the Cubs in late 2021. I’d assume they know each other quite well.
That happens sometimes in baseball. Former teammates, even close friends, do something that hurts their friend’s team.
In this case, Nico and the Cubs will certainly take it.
Mike Tauchman gave the Cubs the lead on the second pitch of the game by another former Cub, Trevor Williams [VIDEO].
The Cubs loaded the bases after that in the first but could not score. Kyle Hendricks allowed the Nats a tying run in the second inning and that’s where the game stayed until the fourth.
Miles Mastrobuoni led off with a single and advanced to third on a pair of outs, where Tauchman doubled him in [VIDEO].
Hendricks completed six innings, another solid outing. He allowed five hits, just the one run, didn’t walk anyone and struck out five. It was definitely good to see him keep the ball in the ballpark after allowing four home runs in his previous start. Here’s a breakdown of Kyle’s start [VIDEO].
And about that walkless outing for Hendricks:
Kyle Hendricks has allowed only one walk in his last five starts (29.1 IP), the fewest walks he's issued over a five-game span in his 10-year career.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) July 20, 2023
Mark Leiter Jr. and Julian Merryweather completed a scoreless seventh, and then the Cubs took the lead in the bottom of the inning.
Tucker Barnhart led off with a walk. Tauchman drove him in with this drive [VIDEO].
That didn’t miss being a home run by much, and also Tauchman didn’t miss having a triple by much, thrown out at third. The Cubs asked for a review, but it was ruled “call confirmed.”
That made it 3-1 Cubs, but Merryweather immediately gave that run back in the eighth on a home run by Jeimer Candelario, his second of the series. (Hey Jed, if you had traded for him, as I suggested, that wouldn’t have happened!)
Merryweather got the next two outs routinely, but then allowed three straight singles that tied the game 3-3.
You could have been forgiven at this point for thinking sad, or bad, thoughts. It felt like it was turning into one of those, “You scored 17 runs yesterday, couldn’t you have saved some of those for today?” games, even though everyone knows baseball doesn’t work that way.
And then the Cubs went right to work in the bottom of the eighth off Nats reliever Mason Thompson. Seiya Suzuki, who had two hits and a walk on the night, led off with a single. Christopher Morel walked and Mastrobuoni (two-hit night) laid down a bunt that bounced high in the air for a hit.
With the bases loaded and nobody out, pinch-hitter Yan Gomes gave the Cubs the lead [VIDEO].
Let me say something here about Gomes’ appearance in the game. He was batting for Trey Mancini, who started at DH and went 0-for-3. The placing of Mancini in the starting lineup instead of Patrick Wisdom at DH was mystifying to me. Since a double in the second game in London, Mancini entered this game batting .212/.243/.212 (7-for-33) over his previous 13 games, with 13 strikeouts. Meanwhile, Wisdom was 4-for-10 with three home runs over his last four games. Who would YOU rather see in the lineup?
After Gomes’ sac fly, Barnhart struck out and Tauchman walked to re-load the bases.
Adbert Alzolay had been warming up for a possible save, but Daniel Palencia had joined him just before Nico batted, just in case the game was removed from a save situation — and so when Nico did that, Palencia entered to throw the ninth. It was an easy inning for the Cubs rookie, and here’s the final out [VIDEO].
That’s an unhittable 92 mile per hour slider, incidentally.
So the Cubs did what they needed to do in this series, win two of three — although a sweep was entirely possible. They’ll need to take at least three of four from the Cardinals to stick with the Reds and Brewers in the N.L. Central race. That four-game series begins Thursday evening at Wrigley Field. Marcus Stroman will start for the Cubs and Steven Matz is the scheduled starter for the Cardinals. Game time is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and MLB Network outside the Cubs and Cardinals market territories).