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MLB Preview: Chicago Cubs (15-14) at Washington Nationals (11-18)

CHICAGO CUBS NOTES:

Cubs vs. Nationals
The Cubs and Nationals play seven games spanning two series this season … following this four-game set at Nationals Park, the teams will meet at Wrigley Field for three games, July 17-19 … Chicago has won the last two season series against the Nationals, going 4-3 in 2021 and 4-2 in 2022.

CUBS AIM TO REBOUND: The Chicago Cubs tonight play the third of four games against the Washington Nationals after splitting the first two games of this series … Chicago took Monday’s series opener, 5-1, to snap a season-high tying three-game skid before dropping last evening’s tilt, 4-1 … this is the sixth contest of a seven-game sojourn that started with three games in Miami (0-3) this past weekend … following tomorrow’s matinee against the Nationals, the Cubs return home for a six-game seven-day homestand against Miami (3 G starting Friday) and St. Louis (3 G beginning Monday).

The Cubs went 10-3 in 13 games from April 4-19, but have gone 4-8 in their last 12 dating to April 20.

Tonight is the sixth game (1-4) of a stretch that sees the team on the road for 16 of 22 contests through May 21.

Chicago’s plus-44 run differential is third in the N.L. behind Atlanta (+48) and Pittsburgh (+45).

YOU ONLY GET ONE FIRST IMPRESSION: The Cubs tonight face Nationals starter Jake Irvin, making his major league debut … it’s the second time this season the Cubs will go up against a starting pitcher making his big league debut as Chicago defeated Oakland, 12-2, on April 19 when they faced Athletics starter Mason Miller (4.1 IP, 2 ER).

Chicago last season twice faced starting pitchers making their major league debuts, both with Milwaukee: Ethan Small on May 30 (gm. 1) in a 7-6 Brewers win and Jason Alexander on June 1 in a 4-3, 10-inning Cubs victory.

Chicago has gone up against starting pitchers making their major league debuts eight times since the start of the 2020 season with the team going 6-2 in those contests.

NOT A WALK IN THE PARK: Cubs pitching has gone consecutive game without issuing a walk for the first time since July 30-31, 2019, at St. Louis … in fact, that 2019 pitching staff turned the trick twice, also doing so May 7-8 vs. Miami.

When was the last time Cubs pitching went three-straight games without allowing a free pass? … well, that would be back in 1984 when the staff didn’t issue a walk for three-straight games, Sept. 23 (gm. 2) through Sept. 25, at St. Louis and at Pittsburgh.

RISPY BUSINESS: Chicago in the first five games of this trip through Miami and Washington D.C., have hit .146 (6-for-41) with runners in scoring position including a .111 mark (1-9) with five strikeouts and a sac fly with the bases loaded.

Still, the Cubs have batted .283 (72-for-254) with RISP this season, third-best in the N.L. and sixth in the majors … Nico Hoerner leads the club, posting a .348 average (8-for-23) with 15 RBI when batting with RISP.

WHILE ONE STREAK ENDS…: Nico Hoerner’s stretch of reaching base safely ended at 26 games after he was 0-for-5 last night in Washington … that 26-game was the team’s longest since Kris Bryant reached in 26-straight games April 17-May 17, 2019.

Hoerner’s 40 hits are tied for third in MLB … his 10 steals are tied for fourth in the N.L., his 22 runs scored are tied for seventh and his .310 average is 10th.

…ANOTHER STREAK CONTINUES: Cody Bellinger has reached base safely in each of his last 19 games since April 9, the fourth-longest active streak in the majors.

Since April 4, Bellinger has hit .345 (29-for-84) with 22 runs, six doubles, a triple, six home runs, and 14 RBI in his last 22 games, reaching safely in 21 of those contests … has scored a run in 16 of his last 19 games.

Since April 4, Bellinger’s .655 slugging mark and 1.067 OPS are both fourth among N.L. qualified hitters … Bellinger has a 9.3% walk rate and 14.4% strikeout rate since April 4.

NOBODY BEATS THE WIZ: Patrick Wisdom last night belted his 11th homer of the season, tied for the most in the majors with the Dodgers Max Muncy and the Mets Pete Alonso … Wisdom has gone deep in two of his last four games.

Wisdom is the eighth Cub to hit 11 home runs within the team’s first 29 games of a season and the first since Alfonso Soriano hit 11 home runs in the team’s first 28 games of 2011.

LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: The Cubs have scored at least one run in each of their first 29 games of the season, just the sixth time in the expansion era (since 1961) the team has gotten on the board in each of its first 27 contests … the longest season-opening streaks in this span: 47 G in 1995, 43 G in 2020, 40 G in 2012, 35 G in 1975 and 34 G in 199.

THREE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER … SO IS 30: The Cubs are one of two major league teams with at least four players who have already collected 30 hits apiece this season (Philadelphia, 5 players) … Nico Hoerner has 40 hits, Dansby Swanson has 33, Ian Happ has 30, as does Cody Bellinger.

Swanson on Monday night was 3-for-5 with a double, homer and two RBI … his six games of three or more hits this season are tied for the most in the majors with Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr. … Swanson has reached safely at least three times in a game 12 times this season, the most in the majors.

ARM CARE: Cubs pitching has posted a 3.58 ERA (102 ER/256.2 IP) this season, the third-best mark in the N.L. (Milwaukee, 3.41 & Atlanta, 3.48) … the starting rotation has a 3.24 ERA (56 ER/155.1 IP), the second-best mark in the N.L. and fourth in baseball.

Cubs relievers have thrown 101.1 innings this season, tied for second-fewest in the N.L. and tied for fifth-fewest in the majors … the bullpen has averaged 10.92 strikeouts per 9.0 innings, the third-best mark in the majors (Cardinals, 11.20 & Royals, 11.08)

Starting Pitcher – #0 RHP Marcus Stroman (2-2, 2.29)
Last Time Out
Marcus received a no-decision April 28 in MIami … tossed a season-high 6.1 innings … has completed at least 6.0 innings in five of his six starts in 2023 … his three strikeouts marked a season-low … has posted a 1.46 ERA (2 ER/12.1 IP) in two starts on the road … has received two runs or fewer of support in four of his six starts.

Date Opp. Result IP H R ER BB SO PC-S Left
4/28 @MIA ND, 2-3 6.1 6 2 2 2 3 92-60 2-2, 1 on
2023 Splits and Season Notes
W-L ERA G GS IP H R ER BB SO
Home 2-2 2.74 4 4 23.0 16 7 7 9 25
Road 0-0 1.46 2 2 12.1 8 2 2 4 8
AVG vs. LHB: .220 (13-for-59) / AVG vs. RHB: .167 (11-for-66)

Marcus is scheduled to make his team-high seventh start of the 2023 season tonight, his third on the road … dating to Aug. 30, 2022, has allowed one run or fewer in eight of his last 13 starts, pitching to a 2.15 ERA (17 ER/71.0 IP), the second-lowest ERA in the majors during that span (min. 13 GS).

Recorded his 1,000th career strikeout April 23 vs. Los Angeles (N.L.), retiring Freddie Freeman looking in the third inning.

Became the second Cubs starting pitcher since 1901 (also Jake Arrieta, 2016) with three outings of at least 6.0 scoreless innings in the team’s first 16 games.

Became the third Cubs starting pitcher since 1901 to allow two or fewer combined runs over his first four starts of a season (also Steve Stone, 1976; Jason Hammel, 2016).

Posted a 14.0-inning scoreless streak to begin the season, the fourth-longest by a Cubs pitcher since 1901.

Made his third career Opening Day start March 30 vs. Milwaukee (0 ER/6.0 IP), earning the win … improved to 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA (3 ER/21.0 IP) in his three career Opening Day starts.

In three Cacuts League starts with the Cubs, went 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA (1 ER/10.0 IP) and 10 strikeouts.

Made two starts for Team Puerto Rico in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, posting a 3.00 ERA (3 ER/9.0 IP).

WASHINGTON NATIONALS NOTES:

OPPONENT – CHICAGO CUBS
The Nationals and Cubs will play seven times this season (4 in D.C., 3 in CHC)…Nationals manager Dave Martinez served as the Cubs bench coach from 2015-17 and also made his Major League debut with the Cubs in 1986, going on to play four seasons with them (1986-88, 2000)…Bullpen coach Henry Blanco served as Chicago’s quality assurance coach from 2015-17 and played for the Cubs from 2005-08…Pitching coach Jim Hickey served the same role with the Cubs in (2017-18)…President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo is a Chicago native…He attended Holy Cross High School in River Grove, IL…Trevor Williams opened the 2021 season with the Cubs before being traded to the Mets…Carl Edwards Jr. spent five seasons (2015-19) as a member of the Cubs… Jeimer Candelario made his MLB debut with the
Cubs in 2016…Cubs catcher Yan Gomes spent three seasons (2019-21) in D.C. and caught the final out of the 2019 World Series.

SEVENTH INNING RALLY SPARKS VICTORY
The Washington Nationals beat the Chicago Cubs, 4-1, in game two of this four-game series on Tuesday night…The win snapped Washington’s three-game losing streak against Chicago dating to last season…Trevor Williams tossed 5.1 shutout innings, allowing four hits with one walk and four strikeouts.

• Tied at 1-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Nationals plated three runs to take the 4-1 lead…CJ Abrams’ RBI-single plating Dominic Smith put Washington ahead…Alex Call followed with a two-run double to extend the lead to 4-1…For Abrams, it was his second game-winning RBI of the season.

WELCOME TO THE SHOW, KID
Right-handed pitcher Jake Irvin will make his Major League debut on Wednesday night…In doing so, he becomes the 25th pitcher drafted/signed and developed by the Washington Nationals (2005-pres.) to make his debut with the Nationals…It will be the first start by a pitcher outside of Washington’s original five-man rotation this season.

• Irvin has the “Best Control” in Washington’s Minor League system, according to Baseball America…He is ranked as the No. 20 prospect in the system according to MLBPipeline.com and the 22 prospect in the system, per Baseball America.

CJ IN DC
Over his last seven games, CJ Abrams is 8-for-22 (.364) with a double, homer, six RBI, one hit by pitch and four runs scored…He’s hit safely in five of the seven games.

• Since April 15, he is hitting .275 (14-for-51) with a .431 slugging percentage (2 2B, 2 HR).

LET’S TALK ABOUT LUIS
Luis García is hitting .262/.313/.426 in 16 games dating to April 14…He has five walks and just six strikeouts in 67 plate appearances over this stretch…This comes after he opened the season hitting .179/.172/.214 with no walks in his first eight games.

• García is 7-for-22 (.318) with a double, triple, five RBI, one stolen base and three runs scored over his last six games.

• The left-hander is 7-for-20 (.350) with a double, triple, homer, four RBI and just two strikeouts against left-handed pitching this season.

SPEAKING OF DOM
Dominic Smith is 7-for-16 (.438) with one double, one homer, one RBI and three runs scored over his last four games…He’s struck out just once in 16 plate appearances over this stretch.

• Over his last 10 games, Smith is hitting .300 (12-for-40) with a .333 on-base percentage and a .425 slugging percentage (2 2B, HR).

• He is one of three National League first baseman to accumulate at least two defensive runs saved along with Arizona’s Christian Walker (2) and behind Pittsburgh’s Carlos Santana (3), per FanGraphs.com.

NO Ks HERE
Thanks to Keibert Ruiz (2nd, 6.5%), Luis García (4th, 8.3%) and Victor Robles (19th, 13.0%), the Nationals have three players in the top 20 in MLB in strikeout rate…The Nationals are one of two teams with more than two players (Boston).

• As a team, the Nationals have the lowest strikeout rate in Major League Baseball (17.9%) and the fewest strikeouts (197) ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks (222).

5.0 ALIVE
Jim Hickey’s starters rank tied for fourth in the National League in starts of at least 5.0 innings this season with 23…In 2022, the Nationals ranked 28th in Major League Baseball with 94 starts of at least 5.0 innings.

• Starters Josiah Gray (6.0 IP, 3 H, ER, 3 BB, 6 SO), MacKenzie Gore (4.0 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO) and Trevor Williams (5.1 IP, 4 H, BB, 4 SO) have combined to pitch to a 2.93 ERA over the last three games

STARTING PITCHER – #74 JAKE IRVIN
Tall right-handed starter was added to Washington’s 40-man roster following the 2022 season…Has the “Best Control” in Washington’s system, perBaseball America…Joins other University of Oklahoma pitchers Cade Cavalli (2020 Draft) and Jake Bennett (2022 Draft) in the Nationals organization….Is the 25th pitcher drafted/signed and developed by the Washington Nationals to start a game for Washington (2005-pres.).

LAST START
Makes his Major League Debut tonight…Started for Triple-A Rochester on April 26 against St. Paul (MIN)…Irvin earned the win after he struck out a season-high six batters in 5.1 innings and allowed two runs on five hits and three walks.

2023 IN TRIPLE-A
Irvin made five starts for Triple-A Rochester this season…He went 2-2 with a 5.65 ERA (14 R/22.1 IP)… Irvin has worked at least 5.0 innings in three of his five starts and has struck out 20 in 22.1 innings.

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