Observations: Ian Happ powers Cubs to series win over Nationals

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Observations: Ian Happ powers Cubs to series win over Nats originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Cubs beat the Nationals 5-2 on Thursday, improving to 22-21 this season.

Here are 10 observations from the game.

1. The Cubs got one starting position player back but lost another. Anthony Rizzo returned to the lineup for the first time since Tuesday (low back tightness), but Jason Heyward landed on the IL pregame with a hamstring strain.

Rizzo went 2-for-4.

2. There was a moment of concern when David Ross and a trainer checked on Joc Pederson during an at-bat in the eighth inning. Pederson grabbed his right side several times but stayed in the game, hitting a hard line out to right.

Ross said postgame Pederson was just dealing with a cramp.

3. The Cubs can’t seem to catch a break with injuries early this season. Justin Steele, who’s been a bright spot this season, left Thursday’s game in the seventh with right hamstring tightness.

4. Ian Happ has had some brutal luck this season, but things have really turned around for him of late. Happ crushed a pair of home runs Thursday to power the Cubs’ offense. In eight games this month, he’s hitting .375 (12-for-32) with five homers and 10 RBIs.

5. For the fourth straight start, Trevor Williams didn’t pitch five innings. The Cubs led 4-2 with two outs in the fifth when Juan Soto stepped to the plate. David Ross opted for Steele, a lefty, to face the Nationals star outfielder in that spot.

Steele walked Soto but then struck out Josh Bell to end the inning.

6. The Cubs need more length from Williams, but he did recover from an inauspicious start to give them 4 2/3 innings of five-hit, two-run ball. Both runs came on back-to-back solo homers in the first. Thursday was his longest outing since tossing five innings April 27.

7. It didn’t hurt the Cubs, but Williams held up at third base when it looked like he could have scored in the fourth. Rizzo singled and third base coach Willie Harris waved Williams home. He pulled up, and the inning ended a batter later on Javy Báez’ ground out.

8. Kyle Schwarber made sure to give Cubs fans a goodbye present. The 2016 champion and Nationals left fielder hit his second home run this series, a solo blast off Williams in the first.

9. Cubs pitchers have tallied a hit in three straight games. Williams followed Keegan Thompson (Tuesday) and Jake Arrieta (Wednesday) in hitting singles this week.

10. The Cubs went 11-15 in April. They've already matched that total in May, improving to 11-6 this month with Thursday's win.

On deck: The Cubs head to St. Louis for a three-game series with the Cardinals. First pitch Friday is 7:15 p.m. Kyle Hendricks (3-4, 5.27 ERA) and Carlos Martínez (3-4, 4.35 ERA) are the probable starters.

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