As slide continues, Cubs decide time is right to promote Mervis

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Or in this case, the Cubs decided to make an overdue move just as they dipped below .500 with another frustrating loss in Washington.

The Cubs are planning to call up Matt Mervis from Triple A Iowa. The slugging first baseman is expected to join the team Friday and could make his major league debut against Miami at Wrigley Field. ESPN's Jeff Passan was first with the news.

Last year, Mervis was named the Cubs' minor league player of the year after hitting a combined .309 with 36 home runs and 119 RBI across three levels.

Since a corresponding move is needed to bring up a player from Iowa, there may not be an official confirmation until Friday morning. The most obvious scenario would be infielder Edwin Rios being sent down, since he's been used sparingly. The Cubs may be reluctant to part with Eric Hosmer until they see how Mervis performs in the field.

The Cubs (15-16) completed a 1-6 road trip with a 4-3 loss to the Nationals on Thursday. Brad Boxberger's first pitch of the ninth inning was lofted just inside the left-field foul pole by Alex Call, giving Washington a walk-off victory and the Cubs their fifth 1-run defeat of the trip.

"I think we have a good group of guys who have seen a lot of baseball, been around a lot and understand there's times when you go through this in a season," left fielder Ian Happ told reporters after the game. "When you're at the start of the season and you have a tough road trip like this, it definitely stings, especially with those 1-run losses."

The Cubs offense was shut down for 7 innings by Nationals starter Patrick Corbin, who started the day with a 5.74 ERA. They managed just 1 hit and that was a routine pop up from Cody Bellinger that was lost in the sun by shortstop C.J. Abrams.

When Corbin came out to start the eighth inning with a 3-0 lead, he was greeted with clean singles by Bellinger and Patrick Wisdom. The Nationals brought in hard-throwing reliever Hunter Harvey for the third straight game, and Trey Mancini connected for an RBI double off the wall in right. Miguel Amaya plated the second run with a sacrifice fly before Nico Hoerner's single tied the score.

In the top of the ninth, the Cubs put runners on second and third with nobody out after a single by Ian Happ and double from Seiya Suzuki. But Nationals reliever Kyle Finnegan struck out both Bellinger and Wisdom, and the Cubs didn't score.

As expected, Jameson Taillon came off the injured list to start for the Cubs. In his first action since April 15, Taillon pitched 3 innings, allowing a 3-run homer to Lane Thomas in the second. Javier Assad worked 5 scoreless innings in relief.

"It's tough sitting there and watching people take your starts, so it's good to be back," said Taillon, who was sidelined by a groin strain. "I thought it was just one bad pitch that I'm kicking myself over. On the positive side - healthy, trust it, thought the stuff was good, and I'm not concerned with this (injury) going forward."

Amaya made his major-league debut, starting at catcher and going 0-for-2 at the plate. His parents made the trip from Panama and watched from the stands.

Mervis is hitting .286 at Iowa with 6 home runs and 27 RBI. A few days ago, he produced the hardest-hit ball by anyone in the Cubs organization this season, majors or minors.

While he produced the best numbers by a Cubs minor-leaguer since Kris Bryant in 2014, Mervis was an under-the-radar talent, who didn't begin to rise in the prospect rankings until well into last season.

The Washington D.C. native signed with the Cubs as a free agent after he wasn't chosen in the five-round 2020 MLB Draft. Mervis was primarily a pitcher during his first two years in college at Duke, then switched to hitting and had his senior season cut short by the pandemic.

A left-handed hitter, Mervis hit .300 against left-handed pitching in Iowa. His walks (18) to strikeouts (19) were impressive for a power hitter.

In other Iowa Cubs news, Christopher Morel was named International League player of the month for April. Morel is hitting .358 with 11 home runs and 28 RBI, so the Cubs are probably looking for a path to bring Morel back to Wrigley Field.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

Swanson, Cubs catch favorable wind to capture series finale vs. San Diego

Cubs squander sharp outing by Stroman

Kilian hit hard, mental miscues cost Cubs in 7-6 loss to Marlins

Marlins edge Cubs 4-3, complete sweep of cooling North Siders

Cubs snap losing streak, but Gomes leaves with head injury

Cubs add catching depth, but lack offense in loss to Nationals

Cubs slump gets even more concerning with another loss to Washington

Cubs' Trey Mancini runs back to the dugout after scoring on a single by Nico Hoerner during the eighth inning on Thursday. Associated Press
The Nationals' Alex Call celebrates after hitting a walk-off home run in the ninth for a 4-3 victory over the Cubs on Thursday afternoon at Nationals Park. Washington Post photo by John McDonnell
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.