Contreras, Morel homer in win over Reds
|Thursday, June 30, 2022, 8:44 AM- -|
CHICAGO - It is not always about the number of hits a team racks up, but more so the quality of hits you get. Quality was indeed the answer at Wrigley Field Wednesday night as seven of the Chicago Cubs (29-46) went for extra bases.
That was a big problem for the Cincinnati Reds (26-48), who dug themselves a huge hole they couldn't get out of. Even with the Cubs offense getting the job done, it was another complete team effort win as the Cubs evened up the series 8-3.
One night after watching Keegan Thompson toy with hitters, Justin Steel was back on the bump as his strong run of successful starts continued. With every outing, Steele is continuing to prove himself as a starter, and if this keeps up, he will be a big part of this team's future.
Despite lasting just five innings, it was five strong innings as he allowed one run on six hits. Steele walked three and struck out six as he did what he needed to win this game. Opposing him was the flame-throwing right-hander Hunter Greene, who lasted just four innings and allowed three runs over that span to take the loss.
Greene fell behind early as the first-inning success of this Cubs team continued. With Willson Contreras getting hit by a pitch, the Ian Happ double put the Cubs in front 1-0. The play was reviewed, but ruled the run scored. Considering how strong Steele looked early on, especially after striking out the side in the third, you had to wonder if one run would be enough.
That was until the third inning when Steele started showing little cracks in the armor. As his fastball command was suddenly skeptical at best, the left-hander found himself in a massive jam as one-out singles by Tommy Pham and Kyle Farmer were sandwiched around a Joey Votto walk to load the bases. What could have been a huge inning for the Reds came crashing down when Donovan Solano lined out to Christopher Morel in center, who came up firing to nab Pham at the plate for the double play.
Not only did that kill the Reds momentum, but it ignited the Cubs with Happ and Patrick Wisdom starting the fourth with walks. Nico Hoerner followed that up with an RBI double to extend the lead to 3-0 as the Cubs offense was still in business. Steele worked around another shaky inning in the fifth only to see Contreras unload for his 13th homer and put the Cubs in front 5-0. That homer will go down as the game-winning hit.
Looking to get through six innings, Steele found himself in trouble again, allowing a Brandon Drury single to start the inning before a walk put two runners on base. Votto followed that up with an RBI double, only to see Scott Effresss enter the game and prevent any further damage.
With the shutout no longer intact, it was time for the Cubs to focus on building their lead which started with the David Bote double in the bottom of the sixth. A long Christopher Morel homer followed that double to make things 7-1 as the Cubs were in complete control. Contreras would add another double later that inning along with a Happ walk, but no further damage came across.
Looking to keep things where they were, Mychal Givens was called on to pitch the seventh and had to work around a pair of singles to keep things scoreless. Making his second relief appearance of the season was Matt Swarmer in the eighth inning as he looks to redefine his new role.
Swarmer wasn't greeted the way he would have liked, with Votto smashing a lead-off double before coming home the two-out double from Albert Almora Jr to make things 7-2. Not about to let off the gas quite yet, and Andrelton Simmons walk to start the bottom of the inning turned into a triple as a stolen base and wild pitch had him at third. Rafael Ortega would drive him home on the sacrifice fly as the Cubs were up 8-2.
The Reds managed to plate one more run in the ninth off Swarmer when Drury went deep in the ninth, but the Cubs still took care of business to pick up the 8-3 win. Contreras has been swinging a hot bat for over a week and kept things rolling with three more hits. Morel added two hits from the No. 9 spot, with Hoerner, Happ, and Ortega picking up the rest.