CHICAGO - The Nationals are hitting singles and doubles against Kyle Hendricks so far today, and reaping the benefits of it. The Cubs are trying to hit homers off Jeremy Hellickson, and paying the price on a windy day at Wrigley Field.
Four innings into the opener of a key weekend series, the Nationals hold a 2-0 lead thanks to six hits off Hendricks (five singles and a double) and zeroes off Hellickson (despite two deep drives that probably would’ve been homers under different weather conditions).
Though it’s a warm and muggy August afternoon on the North Side of Chicago, the wind is uncharacteristically blowing in off Lake Michigan. That’s making it quite a challenge for batters to hit the ball in the air with any authority.
Both Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo hit deep fly balls that brought a roar from the crowd upon impact, but in each case the ball died in the air and was caught by center fielder Bryce Harper at the warning track.
The Cubs have had only one baserunner so far today: Rizzo’s four-pitch walk to lead off the bottom of the first. Hellickson has retired 12 in a row since then and is through four scoreless innings on only 46 pitches.
The Nationals, meanwhile, have had seven baserunners already against Hendricks, bringing two of them home, each via a two-out RBI single.
Rookie Juan Soto, in his first career at-bat at Wrigley Field, sent a 1-2 changeup to center field to bring home Trea Turner in the top of the first and get the Nats on the board. Adam Eaton drove home the second run with a two-out single to right in the top of the second, with Daniel Murphy chugging around to score from second, literally rolling across the plate.
Update: The good news: Hellickson did not allow a hit today. The bad news: He was pulled with two outs in the sixth after walking the bases loaded, his pitch count at 89. In came Sammy Solís, who did not celebrate his 30th birthday in style. After falling behind in the count 2-0 to Jason Heyward, the lefty gave up a rocket single past a diving Murphy. Two runs scored, leaving this game tied 2-2 after six innings, despite only one hit today for the Cubs.
Update II: This game continues to spiral downward for the Nationals. The Solís-Greg Holland combo gave up the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh, with Holland walking Rizzo on four pitches to force in a run charged to Solís. Koda Glover did come in for his 2018 debut and bail everybody out with two big outs to strand the bases loaded, but the Nats trail 3-2 heading to the eighth.