Four-run fourth inning lifts Kyle Hendricks in Cubs’ win over the Nationals

Four-run fourth inning lifts Kyle Hendricks in Cubs’ win over the Nationals

AP Photo/Nick Wass

Center fielder Rafael Ortega’s two-run shot capped the four-run fourth inning in the Cubs’ 6-3 win over the Nationals

WASHINGTON – Starter Kyle Hendricks allowed five earned runs in his last start against the Reds, which was the most he’d given up in an outing since April. But the Cubs’ right-hander looked to get back on track in Saturday’s 6-3 win over the Nationals and that’s exactly what he did.

Hendricks mowed down a freshly depleted Nats’ lineup and was in control all night, tossing seven innings of one-run ball before handing things over to the bullpen. He struck out three batters and walked one.

The Cubs’ offense came through for Hendricks and took control in the fourth inning. They scored their first two runs in the inning on an RBI-single by Sergio Alcantara and RBI-double by Andrew Romine to make it a 3-1 game.

Center fielder Rafael Ortega capped the inning off with a two-run shot, giving the Cubs a 5-1 lead. Ortega has had a torrid July and will continue to get opportunities.

“I think what has helped me is that I’ve had a strong mentality throughout this time [in Chicago],” Ortega said. “Specifically with adjustments at the plate through all my games since I’ve been here.”

Cubs’ bullpen work in progress without Chafin, Tepera and Kimbrel

The Cubs’ bullpen was their biggest strength for much of this season and when the team was at its best. The combination of Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel was one of the best high-leverage trios in baseball.

But Chafin, Tepera and Kimbrel are now all on different teams following the Cubs’ trades this week and manager David Ross will now have to find a new formula.

“I probably won’t go full closer,” Ross said before Saturday’s 6-3 win. “I think we’ll try to try to navigate the biggest pockets where we feel like guys fit in the biggest moments. Make sure we keep ourselves in the game early on.

“It’ll be a work in progress. But I’ve got some thoughts more on that scenario than just having an identified closer.”

The Cubs will have time to figure that out over the next three months as they determine who might be part of their bullpen next year. Hard-throwing right-hander Manny Rodriguez is going to several opportunities to be part of that mix. Rodriguez made his major league debut on, throwing a scoreless inning with two strikeouts and showed some of the electric stuff the Cubs are excited about.

Right-hander Codi Heuer is also expected to be a part of the Cubs bullpen of the future. Heuer, who was acquired from the White Sox in the Kimbrel trade, was activated before Saturday’s game and will also get opportunities in high leverage.

“He’s had some success, some real success,” Ross said. “There’s some things that we identified internally that feel like we can impact him and continue to have his career grow. I think it’s a real arm that can get real hitters out – somebody that has had success in the big leagues that we feel can be sustainable.”

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