The Cubs had a chance to win their series against the Nationals on a damp Sunday afternoon, but they were unable to make that happen despite a tremendous game from the red-hot Rafael Ortega.
Ortega opened the scoring with a leadoff home run in the top of the 1st, a drive to right that just barely cleared the fence. Adbert Alzolay was good through the first two innings but ran into major issues in the bottom of the 3rd.
With two outs and a man at second, manager David Ross decided to intentionally walk Juan Soto to bring Josh Bell to the plate. Bell singled to left and Ian Happ made an ill-advised throw to home that allowed one runner to score easily. Then catcher Robinson Chirinos made an equally questionable throw to try and get Bell advancing to second, which allowed Soto to score all the way from first.
Yadiel Hernandez knocked in a third run with a single to give the Nats a 3-1 lead and another RBI single the following inning from Bell increased the advantage. Ortega struck again in the 6th, this time launching a two-run shot down the right field line to cut the lead to 4-3.
Hernandez put the Nationals back up by two runs with a home run off of Kyle Ryan in the 7th, but Ortega would not allow the Cubs to go quietly. The slugging outfielder blasted his third home run of the game, a two-run bomb deep to right field tied the score 5-5 in the 8th.
Why the Cubs Lost
Other than Ortega, the rest of the offense did almost nothing all game and sloppy defense in the 3rd cost the Cubs two runs.
Hernandez rode a 99 mph fastball the opposite way to win the game. Rodriguez may become a bullpen mainstay in time, but he was the victim Sunday.
Stats That Matter
- Alzolay struggled in this one and appeared to run out of gas early: 5 IP, 4 R, 7 H, 4 K, and 4 BB. His performance against left-handed hitters is holding him back from being a quality major league starter, so that’s something to work on.
- Ortega had a single to go with the first three-homer game for a Cub since Kris Bryant in 2019.
- Pinch hitter Andrew Romine had the only other hit for the Cubs Sunday.
Right now the lone bright spot for the Cubs is the out-of-nowhere emergence of Ortega. If he keeps this up, he may very well be the starting centerfielder next year.
The Cubs head to Denver for a three-game series with the Rockies starting Tuesday at 7:40pm CT. Kyle Freeland does battle with the not-traded Zach Davies in a game airing on Marquee and 670 The Score.