Four-run fourth inning lifts Kyle Hendricks in Cubs’ victory against Nationals

Rafael Ortega’s two-run home run capped the big inning in the Cubs’ 6-3 victory.

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AP Photo/Nick Wass

WASHINGTON — Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks allowed five earned runs in his last start against the Reds, which was the most he had given up in a game since April. But he got back on track in a 6-3 victory Saturday against the Nationals.

Hendricks mowed down a depleted Nationals lineup and was in control all night, allowing one run and four hits in seven innings before handing things over to the bullpen. He struck out three and walked one.

The Cubs took control of the game with four runs in the fourth. They scored their first two runs of the inning on an RBI single by Sergio Alcantara and an RBI double by Andrew Romine before Rafael Ortega capped the inning with a two-run home run to give the Cubs a 5-1 lead.

Ortega had a torrid July and will continue to get opportunities.

‘‘I think what has helped me is that I’ve had a strong mentality throughout this time [in Chicago], specifically with adjustments at the plate through all my games since I’ve been here,’’ Ortega said.

Cubs’ bullpen ‘work in progress’

The Cubs’ bullpen was their biggest strength for much of the season, especially when the team was at its best. The combination of Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel was one of the best high-leverage trios in baseball.

But Chafin, Tepera and Kimbrel are now on different teams after the Cubs’ trades this week, and manager David Ross will have to find a new formula in the bullpen.

‘‘I probably won’t go full closer,’’ Ross said before the game. ‘‘I think we’ll try to try to navigate the biggest pockets where we feel like guys fit in the biggest moments. . . .

‘‘It’ll be a work in progress, but I’ve got some more thoughts on that scenario than just having an identified closer.’’

The Cubs will have time to figure that out in the last two months of the season as they try to determine who might be part of their bullpen in 2022.

Hard-throwing right-hander Manny Rodriguez is going to get several opportunities to be part of that mix. Rodriguez made his major-league debut Friday, throwing a scoreless inning with two strikeouts, and showed some of the electric stuff the Cubs are excited about.

Right-hander Codi Heuer also is expected to be a part of the Cubs’ bullpen of the future. Heuer, who was acquired from the White Sox in the trade for Kimbrel on Friday, pitched out of trouble in the eighth after the Nationals had scored twice against left-hander Rex Brothers.

‘‘He’s had some success, some real success,’’ Ross said of Heuer. ‘‘I think it’s a real arm that can get real hitters out, somebody that has had success in the big leagues that we feel can be sustainable.’’

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