Nationals series gives possible preview of playoffs

Northsiders opt for another big bat in draft

By Nate Johnson

Playoffs in June? Perhaps a stretch, but the Chicago Cubs’ four-game trip to Washington over the weekend might have provided a look into October, leaving fans breathing a bit easier after taking three out of four from the Nationals.

Winning the series from Washington, their second-to-last stop before two games in Detroit, certainly helped to calm fans after a disappointing 1-2 series against the scuffling Miami Marlins.

Despite being one ill-fated Kyle Hendricks pitch away from potentially turning the series record upside down, barely making double-digit runs in the series and wasting an outing from team ace Jon Lester came at a bad time for a team jockeying to keep position at the back end of the wild-card chase.

Even with the slide in Miami, the Cubs go into their series with the Tigers having won 15 out of their last 25, 16 of which were against teams over .500. Continuing that pace will require continued support from the second offensive tier like they got in Washington from the returning from injury Chris Denorfia.

The top tier of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant is keeping up their end, as Rizzo enters Detroit with a 12-game hitting streak and Bryant was honored for a solid May, which included leading the league in runs batted in, with National League Rookie of the Month honors.

As the Cubs continue their rebuilding at the major league level, the front office had their eyes on the future on Monday as they selected switch-hitting outfielder Ian Happ from the University of Cincinnati in the first round of the MLB draft.

“I’ve definitely heard about the guys that have come before me,” Happ said during a phone conference. “I had a chance to talk to Kyle Schwarber a little bit last year. Great guy. I’m really excited to add to the college bats they have coming through, and hopefully be the next one to move through the system.”

Happ will join a minor league system currently led by last year’s first-round pick Kyle Schwarber, who has been rumored for (but most likely not in line for) a brief call-up to fulfill designated hitter duties during their interleague visit to Detroit.

After the pair with the Tigers, the Cubs will return home to welcome Ohio, as the Reds and the Indians each come in for a three-game series, which hopes to provide a brief respite after the demanding road trip.

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