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.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.