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Washington Nationals 5-4 over Chicago Cubs on 8th inning HR by Nelson Cruz

CJ Abrams debuted with the Nationals. Nelson Cruz hit one out. Something old, something new, or something...

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Gray vs the Cubbies:

Josiah Gray didn’t manage to snap his four start winless streak, but the 24-year-old right-hander bounced back some (after he put up an 8.53 ERA, a 9.27 FIP, and a .276/.364/.737 line against in the previous four outings and 19 IP) with his 6 13-inning outing against the Chicago Cubs last week in Wrigley Field.

Gray allowed just two runs on seven hits, striking out five without walking a batter in a 96-pitch appearance in what ended up a 4-2 loss.

“For me that’s a great outing for him,” manager Davey Martinez said following Gray’s 21st turn in the Nationals’ rotation this season.

“After a couple games of struggles, he made some adjustments, which was awesome, so if we can continue to build off of that, that’s great.”

Going up against the Cubs again tonight, in the second consecutive outing, Gray recorded two quick outs in the opening frame, but he left a 1-1 curve up for Ian Happ which was hit out to right for a solo shot and a 1-0 lead for the visiting team. Seiya Suzuki beat a throw to first for a two-out hit in the next at-bat, and Franmil Reyes lined a 1-0 slider to right field for an RBI triple and a 2-0 Cubs’ lead after a 1/2-inning in D.C.

Gray held it there through three, striking out three in the second and two more in the third for seven total from 15 batters faced. He worked around an error (by the new shortstop CJ Abrams) and a two-out walk in an 18-pitch fourth, but with two out in the fifth, he left a 2-1 fastball up and over the middle for Happ, who hit his second home run of the game (12th in 2022) 429 feet to right, into the upper deck. 3-0 Cubs.

It was 4-3 in the Nationals’ favor when Gray returned to the mound in the sixth, however, and he got two outs around a Nico Hoerner double before manager Davey Martinez took the trip out to the mound... then left Gray in to face Patrick Wisdom with the tying run on second base and the starter at 100 pitches even. Gray got up 1-2, went to 2-2, and got a swinging K with a slider for out No. 3, and his 10th K overall (from 26 batters). He was for real amped...

Josiah Gray’s Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 10 Ks, 2 HRs, 105 P, 67 S, 7/0 GO/FO.

Stroman vs the Nationals - Round 2:

Signed to a 3-year/$71M free agent deal this winter, Marcus Stroman, 31, had made 14 starts for the Cubs before taking on the Nationals last week in Wrigley Field, with a 4.00 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 18 walks, 68 Ks, and a .238/.282/.401 line against in 74 1⁄3 IP on the year in his first year in the Cubs’ rotation.

Stroman missed time with inflammation in his right shoulder, but returned to the hill in early July for five starts before taking on the Nats last time out, over which he put up a 1.67 ERA, a 3.04 FIP, six walks, 23 Ks, and a .214/.257/.327 line against in 27 IP, but he had less success in his outing against Washington, giving up five hits, two walks, and four earned runs over five innings in a 90-pitch outing in a 6-5 loss in which he received no decision.

Given a 2-0 lead to work with before he took the mound tonight, Stroman was in command early, throwing four scoreless on 73 pitches, and he had a 3-0 lead when he took the hill in the fifth, but Lane Thomas reached on an error on a grounder to Cubs’ third baseman Zach McKinstry, and the Nationals followed up with back-to-back singles by Ildemaro Vargas and César Hernández. loading the bases for Joey Meneses with no one out.

Meneses K’d swinging at a 1-2 slider for out No. 1, but Thomas scored when Luke Voit sent a grounder to third in the next at-bat. Voit beat a potential double play throw to first after the Cubs got a force at second, as the Nationals’ first run of the game scored, 3-1 Cubs, and the Nats added a run when Yadiel Hernández sent a two-out single to right field, 3-2 Cubs. That was it for Stroman...

Marcus Stroman’s Line: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 94 P, 60 S, 9/0 GO/FO.

CJ Abrams Debuts With Nationals:

Acquired along with four other prospects and major league bat Luke Voit from San Diego’s Padres in return for Juan Soto and Josh Bell, CJ Abrams was ranked as Washington’s No. 1 prospect and the No. 11 overall prospect in baseball according to Baseball America after the deal, and he started off in Triple-A (after debuting in the majors with the Friars this season), but got the call today to come up and play short with Luis García placed on the 10-Day IL in advance of the series opener with Chicago in D.C.

“I like to play the game hard, I like to play hard, play at a fast pace, get outs and score runs,” Abrams said before the game by way of introducing himself to the nation’s capital.

“He seems like a very good kid, he’s anxious to go out there and play, so we’re just going to go out there and let him play,” Davey Martinez said before tonight’s game.

Abrams committed a throwing error, challenged Luke Voit at first with another wide throw, but also showed off some range and a strong arm, while going 0 for 4 at the plate.

Bullpen Action:

Mark Leiter, Jr. took over for the Cubs with two runners on and Nelson Cruz drove them in with a double to left field on an 0-1 sinker from the right-handed reliever, 4-3 Nationals. No. 16 for Cruz in 2022. Double No. 16 that is.

Leiter, Jr. tossed a scoreless sixth to keep it a one-run game, retiring the Nationals in order.

Hunter Harvey took over for the Nationals in the top of the seventh, and gave up a one-out double by Nick Madrigal, a two-out walk to Ian Happ, and an RBI single by Seiya Suzuki, 4-4.

Leiter came back out and retired the Nationals in order in the bottom of the inning to keep it tied at 4-4.

Carl Edwards, Jr. struck out two around a groundout for a scoreless frame. Still 4-4.

Cubs’ righty Brandon Hughes got one out in the eighth, but a 1-1 curve ended up in the left field bullpen for a go-ahead home run by Nelson Cruz, who hit his 9th of the season, 5-4.

Kyle Finnegan came on for the save opportunity after Cruz put the Nationals up a run, and the right-hander retired the side in order to end it. Ballgame.

Nationals now 39-78