Nationals 4, Cubs 3: Alex Call(s) game for three in a row

The Nationals grabbed their third straight win Thursday to take their four-game weekday set with the Cubs, as Lane Thomas cranked a 3-run homer in the second inning and Alex Call hit the dramatic walk-off home run to finish off a game that went sideways in the eighth inning after starter Patrick Corbin went into that eighth inning with a one-hit shutout with no walks and six strikeouts, and that one hit came from a pop-up that was lost in the sun.

The Cubs went to their closer in a tie game in the ninth inning, and Call walked it off on Brad Boxberger‘s first pitch. A grooved 90.7 mph fastball that Call ambushed and pulled it just inside the left field foul pole as the ball eventually got scooped up on the stairway between Sections 106 and 107 by a lucky fan.

In the second inning, Thomas blasted that three-run homer that put Washington up 3-0, and that score held until the eighth inning when the bullpen took over.

Corbin on the other hand had his best outing since September 3 of last year, as he was scoreless through seven today, but went back out for the eighth and was pulled after yielding a pair of singles to Cody Bellinger and Patrick Wisdom that began the eighth inning.

On came Hunter Harvey, who immediately served up an RBI double to Trey Mancini — which carried to the right field wall and was misplayed by Thomas and put two in scoring position and scored the Cubs’ first run, before Miguel Amaya’s sac fly and Nico Hoerner‘s RBI single tied it at 3-3.

For the ninth inning, Kyle Finnegan was summoned on in the tie game, both his and Harvey’s third straight appearance — a questionable move by manager Dave Martinez.

“Тhey both came up to me and said, ‘Hey, we have a chance to win, I’m in.’

I was really trying to stay away from one of those two guys today. I really was. But we thought in that moment the best matchup was to get them out there regardless of what [happened], and at the end, it worked out.

I know they tied the game, but in the end, it worked out.”

— manager Dave Martinez on his decision to pitch Harvey and Finnegan

Finnegan would work around huge trouble in the ninth after issuing a lead-off walk followed by a double to put two in scoring position, and then really clicking into place by stranding two in scoring position after striking out two and retiring his final batter on a flyout.

Last year, the Nats did not celebrate a walk-off until Joey Meneses hit his career first walk-off home run on September 1 of last year — this was the Nats’ first of the season.

“Probably the best feeling on the field that I’ve ever had. Like I said, I’ve dreamed about that so many times.

That’s my first walkoff home run at any level.”

— Alex Call said after the game to the media

This game took just 1 hour 55 minutes to complete, and it ranks as the third fastest game played this year in all of MLB. Swinging at first pitches for outs will certainly speed up a game, and Call’s walk-off homer on a first-pitch sealed the deal to get this game finished in under two hours.

Unfortunately for Corbin, he got a no-decision and ate two earnies as both of his inherited runners scored when Harvey’s inning blew up. Corbin would have had his best outing since September 23, 2021 if that eighth inning did not blow up. His changeup accounted for 19 percent of his pitches today which is the highest level ever in his career. The slider was biting glove-side and low in the zone and Corbin threw 57 of his 80 pitches for strikes (71 percent). Batters only saw 3 1/3 pitches per at-bat on average which allowed him to go this deep into the game. Incredibly, the southpaw threw 20 first-pitch strikes and stayed ahead of batters, for the most part, which added to his dominance. He deserved a better fate and had his ERA below 4.99 before both of those inherited runners scored and finished with a 5.17 ERA for his season to this point.

The key set-up man, Harvey, got saddled with a blown-save for his efforts. Both Harvey and Finnegan pitched 20 pitches today to add to their workload from the prior two games. Going again in a day game after a night game might have pushed both to a point that neither were their sharpest, but both gutted through their innings. The main thing is that they are both healthy going forward. We’ve seen it before, and especially with Harvey who has dealt with injuries throughout his career.

The Nats are now 8-5 since that cold weather trip to Minnesota. This is the best baseball the team has played since mid-August to early September of last year. Today marks the first time the team has won three consecutive games since September 3-5 of 2022.

Washington is now only 1.5 games behind the Phillies for fourth place, and the Nats now head out west, facing the Diamondbacks in Arizona this weekend before a three-game set in San Francisco against the Giants. Here’s the upcoming schedule for this week.

Friday @ 9:40 p.m. ET: Josiah Gray vs. Merrill Kelly

Saturday @ 8:10 p.m. ET: MacKenzie Gore vs. Tommy Henry

Sunday @ 4:10 p.m. ET: Trevor Williams vs. Ryne Nelson

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