Nationals 2, Cubs 1: Jake Irvin solid in major-league debut

Photo by Andrew Lang for TalkNats

Jake Irvin took the mound Wednesday for his major-league debut, and the 6-foot-6 right-hander did not disappoint, while the bullpen took care of their struggling offense in the low-scoring victory.

With this win, Washington is only two games back now of the Phillies.

The Nats grabbed their first run of the night in the second inning after a pair of singles from Joey Meneses and Jeimer Candelario that put runners on the corners, as just putting the ball in play did the job — Dominic Smith grounded into a double play that tied it at 1-1.

Washington then picked up the game-winner in the seventh, with Lane Thomas leading off the inning with a triple, and on the next pitch, CJ Abrams drove Thomas in with an RBI single that gave the Nats enough to push them past Chicago with two runs on the board.

After the first pitch of Irvin’s major-league career drilled Nico Hoener, he punched out Dansby Swanson for his first big-league strikeout. He would let Ian Happ aboard on balls, however, and Seiya Suzuki hit a low liner for an RBI single into left to plate Hoerner.

“I’ve gotta imagine I’m one of few to do that, right?” Irvin said of drilling Hoerner with his very first big-league pitch. “I can’t imagine many other guys have plunked the first guy, the first pitch in their debut. Just laugh it off, man. Next hitter.”

After a shaky first inning, what was manager Dave Martinez‘s message to the newcomer?

“‘Well, you covered all the bases. You hit a guy. You walked a guy. A guy scored. Now you’re loose. Go throw strikes.’ And he handled it really well,” the skipper said.

And, from there he settled in nicely. He fired a damage-less second, third, and fourth, though his night came to an end in the fifth — he walked Patrick Wisdom to begin the inning before later yielding a one-out walk to Hoerner, and that prompted Martinez to summon on Andres Machado from the bullpen– ending the right-hander’s big-league debut at 4 1/3 innings pitched and 81 pitches.

Irvin allowed just two hits though walked four along with the HBP, while he struck out three in his first career start, letting through just the one run.

Tonight’s arsenal of Irvin’s 81 pitches, per Statcast, was a mix of 36 percent four-seam fastballs, 35 percent curveballs, 16 percent changeups and 14 percent sinkers. We never saw the 98 mph heaters like we saw in Spring Training though. It was low 90’s for the most part in a paced outing and the average velo was 92.6 mph on the 4-seam fastball.

“This is something you dream of since the day you pick up a baseball,” he said. “I’m on top of the world. And props to the team, man. The guys played great behind me.”

Following Machado’s 1 2/3 one-hit frames, Carl Edwards Jr. (win), Hunter Harvey (hold), and Kyle Finnegan (save) pieced together a scoreless day from the bullpen side of things. When you’re protecting a one-run lead it comes with high drama as each reliever allowed at least one runner on-base, and in Finnegan’s he had to contend with two runners on the corners with one out. The closer got a double play ball to end the threat and seal the victory.

They say a double play is a pitcher’s best friend, and the Nats defense turned four on the night. None bigger than the final one.

And, with that, Washington will look ahead to their series finale with Chicago as Patrick Corbin takes the mound for the Nats.

Thursday @1:05 p.m. ET: Patrick Corbin vs. Jameson Taillon

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