WASHINGTON — It was pure coincidence, but soon after news broke that the Cubs were planning to call first base prospect Matt Mervis, the offense began to rally Thursday.
It was too little, too late. The Cubs fell to the Nationals 4-3 Thursday on Alex Call’s ninth-inning homer for their fifth one-run loss on the 1-6 trip. Their record fell below 0.500 as their fans’ frustrations peaked.
The Cubs were likely due for a lull. The attack got off to a torrid start, exceeding expectations. However, they cannot count on this kind of production throughout the year. So if the Cubs are going to have a successful season, they’re going to have to win close games.
“I think things will break in our path at some point, but definitely a tough road trip,” starter Jameson Taillon said. “I’m thrilled to get back in front of the Wrigley fans and hopefully turn things around.”
Mervis certainly isn’t the answer to all of the Cubs’ problems. But it’s a prospect the team have been high on for some time and one that could become part of their plans for years to come. Mervis is expected to join the Cubs in Chicago for their weekend series against the Marlins, a source has confirmed.
“I found in my experiences that players hit you over time,” general manager Carter Hawkins said this week when asked about promotion decisions. “And you start having conversations, they come into the picture, and then you find yourself having a conversation every day. And at some point, the answer becomes relatively obvious.
Mervis’ success at the Triple-A level could translate to the big leagues immediately, or it could take him a while to settle in. He could carve out a regular role, or it could be a short stint.
Either way, this batting group seems pressing, and sometimes all it takes is a little shakeup to turn the tide.
In one of Thursday’s biggest moments, receiver Miguel Amaya, in his long-awaited major league debut, stepped up to the plate with two runners in scoring position as the Cubs trailed by a run.
“That pitcher was throwing a lot of fastballs inside,” Amaya said of Nationals reliever Hunter Harvey. “I thought to myself, just make contact, let the barrel go baseball and let it happen.”
He was experiencing the size of the stadium, the pitchers, the pressure of a big league game for the first time. Her parents, who had traveled from Panama to see her debut, sat behind the canoe.
He worked a full count, patiently awaiting his pitch. And when he got it, he didn’t miss.
Amaya activated a fastball and drove it into the corner of left field – as manager David Ross said, “almost hit a three-run homer there” – for a sacrifice steal that tied the game. match to the warning track.
“It was fun,” Taillon said of working with Amaya. “He’s a stallion. I love her so much. He is super professional. I can tell he really wants to be really good, cares about his pitchers.
Taillon started after returning from the 15-day injured list (strained left groin), and the night before Amaya had a chat with him about the Nationals roster.
In addition to a second-inning blip, resulting in a three-run home run — “I felt like it was just a bad pitch I was hitting myself on,” Taillon said — they effectively attacked the Nationals hitters.
The plan was still for right-hander Javier Assad, who was recalled on Wednesday, to fill the gap between Taillon, as he builds up his workload, and the rest of the bullpen. Taillon rode three races, dropping six in a row after this circuit. He left the game healthy and handed the ball to Assad.
“Probably gave a lot of confidence because we played [together] a lot in minors,” Amaya said. “And he trusts me, I trust him. Have fun and throw to his friend.
Assad said he tweaked his mechanics, focusing on maintaining alignment with his front side, to improve his command. In an efficient outing, he needed just 50 pitches to go five scoreless innings.
But then, in a scenario that had become all too familiar, things finally fell apart for the Cubs.
Reliever Brad Boxberger replaced Assad in the ninth inning and, with his first pitch, gave up a home run.
“Certainly [a] tough loss,” Ross said. “But this group has shown that they don’t give up.”
The Cubs return to Wrigley Field with anticipation of another major league debut shuffling.
Maybe this weekend Mervis will have a moment like Amaya. Maybe he won’t. In any case, it will bring something different.
Right now the Cubs need something different.