Reyes delivers clutch hit in Cubs debut, but Nationals triumph

Before his first game with the Cubs, Franmil Reyes told a story that seemed a little ridiculous at the time, regarding what he's heard about playing at Wrigley Field.

"I hear that from (Christopher) Morel, 'Even if we're losing 50-0, (the fans) are going to stay until the last out,'" Reyes said. "That's powerful and I appreciate that."

OK, if the score really was 50-0, most people would clear out. But on a Tuesday night featuring two teams that were a combined 59 games below .500, Wrigley Field was nearly full and the enthusiasm made it feel like a pennant race was happening.

Reyes capped off a 4-run rally in the seventh inning with a two-out, RBI single that put the Cubs ahead. But a 2-run homer by Washington's Joey Menses in the top of the eighth off Mark Leiter Jr. to give the Nationals a 6-5 victory.

The Cubs plucked Reyes off waivers from Cleveland. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Dominican Republic native hit 37 home runs in 2019 and 30 last year. He was traded from San Diego to Cleveland during the 2019 season. The Cubs are hoping to find some of that lost slug, because they could use some.

Reyes was the DH on Tuesday and finished the night 1-for-4, with two ground outs and a strikeout. He was hitting .213 for Cleveland with 9 home runs and was sent down to Triple A Columbus before he was released.

Reyes has a couple of close connections with the Cubs. Bench coach Andy Green was his manager when he played for the Padres, and Reyes said Green is like a father.

Cubs assistant hitting coach Johnny Washington also worked in San Diego when Reyes first reached the majors.

"I would say I became a home run hitter in my career because of Johnny Washington," Reyes said. "I was a regular guy who likes to hit a lot of line drives and he was like, 'Well, you're not going to get to the big leagues if you don't put the ball in the air.'

"I was just playing Low A at that time. I started working with him and next year after that, I put up 16 homers in High A and from there everything has changed. He was with me in the big leagues and my first couple years, he was always giving me good advice."

Reyes recalled one exchange with Washington in particular when things weren't going well in San Diego.

"I was cooling down a little bit and I remember he told me, 'Bro, go to your locker, grab your chain. Bring your swag back. Play how you like to play."

Another connection is Reyes says he's good friends with former Cubs reliever Pedro Strop, one of the most outgoing and popular players of the past decade. They're from the same hometown.

"He's coming this week to watch the game to support me like I support him when he won the World Series," Reyes said.

Reyes knows a couple of current Cubs from his San Diego days, relievers Rowan Wick and Anderson Espinoza are former Padres. He tried to take the bad news from Cleveland in stride.

"I'm very thankful to the organization, everything they've done for me and my family," Reyes said. "I can't say bad things. I love everybody.

"I'm not going to quit. That's not how I was raised. I have to keep working hard and give my best every day. I know I'm going to be back soon."

Marcus Stroman had given up 3 runs or less in nine of his last 10 starts. He was doing well until catcher Keibert Ruiz hit his second home run of a night, a 3-run shot that put Washington up 4-1 in the fourth inning.

The Cubs opened the seventh with 4 straight singles by Zach McKinstry, Morel, Rafael Ortega and Willson Contreras. They got a little too aggressive with nobody out, though, and Ortega was thrown out at the plate on Ian Happ's line drive to center. But Reyes tied the game and an RBI single from Nico Hoerner put the Cubs ahead.

McKinstry had 3 hits after starting his Cubs career 0-for-14.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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Chicago Cubs' Franmil Reyes, claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Guardians on Monday, waits for a pitch during the sixth inning of the team's baseball game against the Washington Nationals on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, in Chicago. Associated Press
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