Nico Hoerner, Cubs top power-hitting rookie Meneses, Nationals

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CHICAGO — Nico Hoerner homered to ignite a four-run rally in the seventh inning that sent the Chicago Cubs over power-hitting rookie Joey Meneses and the Washington Nationals 4-2 Wednesday.

Hoerner’s seventh home run ended a shutout bid by Nationals starter Josiah Gray and enabled the Cubs to earn just their second win in 51 games in which they trailed entering the seventh.

“I’d seen that starter a third time,” Hoerner said. “I actually don’t get to do that much.”

The Cubs have won four of six and next play Thursday in the Field of Dreams game in Iowa against Cincinnati.

“It’s a part of history we get to do, and I’m just excited to see the whole set up on the filed,” Hoerner said. “So 8,000 (fans) will feel small, but everyone will be excited to be there.”

Meneses homered in his third straight game for the Nationals, who have lost seven of eight.

The 30-year-old Meneses, who made his major league debut on Aug. 2, became the first player in Nationals franchise history to homer four times in his first seven games. Danny Espinosa and Geoff Blum each hit three homers in their first seven career MLB games.

Meneses hit a solo home run in the sixth. The first baseman/outfielder also singled and is hitting .348 in the majors.

“It’s what I’ve been looking for my whole career,” Meneses said. “I’ve worked very hard to get to this point, and I want to enjoy every moment of it.”

Gray had a 2-0 lead and had permitted five hits before Hoerner homered. Gray was puled after Yan Gomes singled.

Nick Madrigal hit a single off reliever Steve Cishek (1-3), and a throwing error by center fielder Victor Robles enabled two runners to move into scoring position.

Rafael Ortega followed with a sacrifice fly off Cishek, and Ian Happ capped the comeback with an RBI single off Carl Edwards Jr.

“As we all know, (Robles) can be electric out there,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “But once again, it’s those little things. Understanding the game, and being in a position where in a situation like that, he knows what he needs to do before it happens.

“That’s the biggest thing: Think before the ball’s hit to you, and understand what you need to do if the ball’s hit to you.”

A diving catch by Robles in the fifth helped keep the Nationals ahead.

Michael Rucker (1-1) pitched a scoreless seventh to earn his first major league win. Rowan Wick struck out Maikel Franco with the tying run at first to end the eighth and earned his sixth save in eight opportunities.

The Nationals took a 1-0 lead with two out in the third when Ortega made an unsuccessful diving attempt on a line drive by Cesar Hernandez that skipped past him in center for a double to score Tres Barrera from first.

Cubs left-hander Justin Steele was victimized by the lack of support despite striking out nine and walking none in six innings. He has allowed two earned runs while striking out 25 and walking two in his last three starts.

Steele struck out Barrera with the bases loaded to end the fourth.

“For him it’s all about him being in the zone, on the attack,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “He’s had a nice feel for the breaking stuff. It feels like he’s moving to both sides of the plate more consistently.”

ROSS WANTS MORE INTERNATIONAL GAMES

Ross played in the Australian Baseball League and in Mexico City as a minor leaguer with the Dodgers, and was an announcer with ESPN for the 2019 MLB Little League Classic

Ross would like to participate in a series at Japan, where the Cubs opened the 2000 season against the Mets, as well at Puerto Rico and Cuba.

“It touches on the diversity of our game,” Ross said.

STRATEGY ON SOTO

Friday’s series opener against the Padres marks the return of All-Star RF Juan Soto and 1B Josh Bell to Nationals Park since they were traded for six players Aug. 2. Martinez, who managed Soto for 4 1/2 seasons, joked about his plans to pitch to Soto.

“Were’e going to walk him,” Martinez said. “We’ll come up with a game plan. He’s got one of the best eyes I’ve seen for a young hitter in the major leagues.”

TRANSACTION

Nationals: RHP Mason Thompson was optioned to Triple-A Rochester, presumably to make room for LHP Jake McGee, who was claimed off waivers from the Brewers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals: SS Luis Garcia (right knee soreness) was scratched from the starting lineup. . DH Nelson Cruz (right shoulder soreness) appeared as a pinch-hitter in the eighth and singled. … RHP Tyler Clippard (groin strain) threw two scoreless innings for Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday night and be activated as soon as Friday, Martinez said. … RHP Erick Fedde (right shoulder inflammation) threw an extended bullpen session Tuesday and will throw a simulated game next week with the possibility he could return to the rotation. … RHP Will Harris (thoracic outlet syndrome) suffered a groin injury during his rehab assignment and will be sidelined indefinitely, Martinez said.

UP NEXT

The Nationals will send RHP Cory Abbott (0-1, 5.68) to the mound Friday against the Padres. Abbott allowed seven runs in 3 2/3 innings in a 13-1 loss to the Phillies Sunday.

The Cubs will start LHP Drew Smyly (4-6, 3.97) Thursday against the Reds in the Field of Dreams game at Dyersville, Iowa. Smyly pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings Saturday against the Marlins.

La Russa steps down as White Sox manager over heart issue

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CHICAGO — Tony La Russa stepped down as manager of the Chicago White Sox on Monday because of a heart issue, ending a disappointing two-year run in the same spot where the Hall of Famer got his first job as a big league skipper.

La Russa, a three-time World Series champion who turns 78 on Tuesday, missed the final 34 games with the underachieving White Sox. He left the team on Aug. 30 and doctors ultimately told him to stay out of the dugout.

La Russa has a pacemaker implanted in February and doctors later found another heart problem that he has not detailed.

“It has become obvious that the length of the treatment and recovery process for this second health issue makes it impossible for me to be the White Sox manager in 2023,” he said in a statement. “The timing of this announcement now enables the front office to include filling the manager position with their other offseason priorities.”

Chicago began the season with World Series aspirations but was plagued by injuries and inconsistent play. It was 79-80 heading into Monday night’s game against Minnesota.

“Our team’s record this season is the final reality. It is an unacceptable disappointment. There were some pluses, but too many minuses,” La Russa said. “I was hired to provide positive, difference-making leadership and support. Our record is proof. I did not do my job.”

Bench coach Miguel Cairo took over after La Russa stepped away. The White Sox showed a spark right after the change, winning 10 of 14. But they dropped eight straight in late September, dashing their playoff hopes.

La Russa, who is close friends with White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, was a surprise hire in October 2020, and he directed the team to the AL Central title last year.

But the White Sox sputtered throughout much of 2022, and there were chants of “Fire Tony! Fire Tony!” at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“At no time have I been disappointed or upset with White Sox fans, including those who at times chanted `Fire Tony,”‘ La Russa said. “They come to games with passion for our team and a strong desire to win. Loud and excited when we win, they rightly are upset when we play poorly.”

All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson and sluggers Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert missed significant time because of injuries. Catcher Yasmani Grandal and third baseman Yoan Moncada also had health issues, and they underperformed when they were on the field.

There were embarrassing breakdowns, too, like when the White Sox ran themselves into the first 8-5 triple play in major league history during a loss to Minnesota on July 4.

La Russa continued to be a lightning rod for fans who weren’t thrilled with his hiring in the first place. His lineups came under question as did his decisions in games.

Some fans chanted for La Russa’s dismissal following a strange call for an intentional walk to to the Dodgers’ Trea Turner despite a 1-2 count on June 9. Bennett Sousa had just bounced an 0-2 slider, allowing the runner to advance from first to second.

With the base open, La Russa chose to walk Turner even though there were two strikes. It backfired when Max Muncy smacked a three-run homer, propelling Los Angeles to an 11-9 victory.

Another moment that raised eyebrows happened early in the 2021 season.

During a 1-0 loss to Cincinnati, La Russa was unaware of a rule that would have allowed him to use Jose Abreu as the automatic runner at second base rather than closer Liam Hendriks in the 10th inning.

With a 2,900-2,514 record over 35 years with Chicago, Oakland and St. Louis, La Russa trails only Connie Mack on baseball’s career wins list. He moved past John McGraw last season.

But there were big questions about whether La Russa was the right person for the job when the White Sox hired him to replace Rick Renteria. He hadn’t filled out a lineup card since 2011, when St. Louis beat Texas in the World Series. There were doubts about how someone known more for his scowl than smile would mesh with a fun-loving team that had just delivered the White Sox’s first playoff appearance since 2008.

Then, shortly after his hiring, news surfaced of an arrest on misdemeanor DUI charges.

La Russa blew out a tire on the Lexus he was driving in a collision with a curb that February in Arizona, after going to dinner with friends. The case was filed on Oct. 28, one day before the White Sox announced La Russa’s hiring.

He ended up pleading guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving and was sentenced to one day of home detention, a fine of nearly $1,400 and 20 hours of community service.

La Russa also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in Florida in 2007 after police found him asleep and smelling of alcohol inside his running sport-utility vehicle at a stoplight.

La Russa captured championships with Oakland in 1989 and the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011. The former big league infielder and Sparky Anderson are the only managers to win the World Series in the American and National leagues.

He got his first major league managing job at age 34 when the White Sox promoted him from Triple-A to replace the fired Don Kessinger during the 1979 season. He took over that August and led them to a 522-510 record over parts of eight seasons.

The 1983 team won 99 games on the way to the AL West championship – Chicago’s first playoff appearance since the 1959 Go-Go White Sox won the pennant. But La Russa was fired in 1986 by then-general manager Ken Harrelson after the White Sox got off to a 26-38 start, a move Reinsdorf long regretted.