Cubs @ Nationals: Series Thread (Games 28-31)
The Cubs suffered a three-game sweep in Miami to end the month of April, lowering their 2023 record to 14-13. Cody Bellinger continued his recent showing of power by hitting his 7th homerun of the season. Patrick Wisdom homered in the series as well to push his 2023 total to 10. Nico Hoerner has stretched his on-base streak 25 games, having reached base safely in every game except for his 0-4 with no walks on April Fools Day. The Cubs have had a strong showing in offense, starting pitching, and defense. The Pirates, meanwhile, are the surprising frontrunners in the NL Central with a 20-9 record to start the season. The favored Cardinals start May pulling up the rear with a 10-19 record. The 10-17 Nationals will greet the Cubs for their first appearance in D.C. this year. They are down one Juan Soto compared to last season and have presented their fans little cause for excitement this year. The Cubs will have to get past their best young pitcher, however. See below for the matchups such as they stand.
Game 28, Monday, May 1, 6:05 pm central
CHC: LHP Drew Smyly (2-1, 3.21 ERA)
WSH: TBD Mackenzie Gore (3-1, 3.00 ERA)
Remember when Drew Smyly almost pitched a perfect game? That was awesome. You probably don't remember his poor first start, which has been his only poor start of 2023. While he's likely benefited from good BABIP fortune, his command of the strike zone has been promising thus far.
The Padres selected Gore third overall in the 2017 draft. Command has been an issue for him at times, but his mid to high 90s fastball and solid curve and slider have allowed him to work around some wildness thus far. His last start was his best of the season as he struck out ten while walking only two in six innings pitched.
Game 29, Tuesday, May 2, 6:05 pm central
CHC: RHP Hayden Wesneski (2-1, 5.24 ERA)
WSH: RHP Trevor Williams (1-1, 4.10 ERA)
Wesneski pitched to his potential only once in April, striking out seven Athletics in seven innings to record a win. He battled through for a second win against the Padres, holding them to a solo homerun while striking out only three batters in five innings. His slider remains a nasty pitch, but lack of fastball command has prevent him from setting it up consistently. Unsurprisingly, lefties have been an issue for him. They've slashed .308/.386/.590 against him this year.
Williams was with the Cubs to start the 2021 season and spent all of 2022 with the New York Mets. He hasn't regained the success he had with the Pirates from 2017 to 2018, but he continues to be a reasonable fifth starter type who can reliably find the zone.
Game 30, Wednesday, May 3, 6:05 pm central
CHC: RHP Marcus Stroman (2-2, 2.29 ERA)
Stroman had a great April, making five starts of six innings or more with no more than two earned runs allowed. On April 23 he allowed five earned runs and three homers while going five innings against the Dodgers. He bounced back against the Marlins and showed willingness to be aggressive with his fastball.
Game 31, Thursday, May 4, 12:05 pm central
WSH: LHP Patrick Corbin (1-4, 5.74 ERA)
Caleb Killian took the call for the Cubs last time through the rotation. He suffered a five-run first inning in which he looked absolutely terrible. He bounced back a bit in the next few innings but never appeared to know where his pitches would end up. Javier Assad threw 72 pitches for the Iowa Cubs on April 30. Adrian Sampson hasn't appeared since April 8 and is listed as day-to-day.
Patrick Corbin looked dominant at times in the years before the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Since 2021, his strikeout rate has dipped well below a batter per inning and his ERA has climbed into the 5s and even 6s. Opponents have continued to hit him hard thus far in 2023.