Cubs slug three homers in win over Mariners
Joe Nicholson - USA Today Sports

Cubs slug three homers in win over Mariners

by - Senior Writer -

SEATTLE - Anytime you go out West for a lengthy West Coast trip, you will take the wins any way you can get them. That is just what the Chicago Cubs (8-6) are trying to do right now, as things have been challenging on this trip. Coming off another game where their offense was quiet most of the night, the Cubs turned to their prized Japanese lefty Shota Imanaga as they tried to even up their series with the Seattle Mariners (6-9) at T-Mobile Park.

Imanaga was far from perfect in this one, and some might say he looked human as he pitched into the sixth, but couldn't finish it. His command was a big reason for that, as he walked his first two batters of the season while striking out four and also allowing his first run of the season. That run was unearned as Imanaga has yet to allow an earned run through three starts as the Cubs clubbed three homers to take down the Mariners 4-1.

While Imanaga may have pitched his worst game of the season, Emerson Hancock pitched his best game of the season after struggling mightily in his first three starts. With the Cubs taking a more aggressive approach than they are used to, Hancock didn't even throw 75 pitches to get through six innings, allowing just two runs and striking out four. He did his part to keep things close, but the Mariners bullpen was outdueled by the Cubs pen, which hasn't been the case much this season.

Neither team was able to get anything going in the first, but by the time the second inning rolled around it did seem like the Cubs sized up Hancock. One-out singles from Dansby Swanson and Michael Busch started things off as the Cubs had runners on the corners with one out. That proved to be huge for the Cubs as Nico Hoerner came through with a sacrifice fly to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead.

Their lead didn't last long, as it was time for Seattle to answer the Cubs in the bottom half of the second. That all started with a leadoff error, as the Cubs' defense continued to struggle. Jorge Polanco followed that up with a single to put a pair of runners on base with no outs, as Imanaga was in a rare jam. Imanaga did his best to pitch out of trouble, but a two-out Luis Urias double tied things up, as that was the first run allowed by Imanaga this season.

Despite struggling more than he has in any start this season, Imanaga continued to do what he needed on the mound, as that was the only run Seattle would score in the game. With Seiya Suzuki belting his third homer of the season in the third to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead, Imanga was once again in line for the win, which has been the theme this season. The Suzuki homer was also the final run Hancock would allow as he was able to match Imanaga pitch for pitch most of the game.

Like in the second, Imanga ran into some fourth-inning trouble, allowing singles to Mitch Haniger and Mitch Garver before getting out of the inning without any damage. Then came the bottom half of the sixth, when Imanaga suddenly lost his command and walked the first two hitters in the inning to once again put Seattle in a great spot.

Credit Christopher Morel for preventing that from happening. He made not one but two incredible plays at the hot corner to save a pair of runs and keep the Cubs in front 2-1.

"That changes the game right there," Cubs manager Craig Counsell said about Morel's web gem. "They may have the lead if that ball gets into the corner. So, that was a huge play. And he made some real nice plays tonight overall. It's definitely a really big defensive game for Christopher.ÔÇŁ

With the defense doing their part to keep the Cubs in front, it was up to the offense to add on, which they did against former Chicago Cub Tyson Miller. Busch played a role in adding on as he connected for his team-leading fourth homer of the season and third straight game with a homer to extend the lead to 3-1. It may be early in the season, but so far the Busch trade is working out in the Cubs favor.

The other part of the trade with the Dodgers was right-hander Yency Almonte, and after a rough first few outings this season, he is figuring things out. Almonte pitched another scoreless inning for the Cubs with a pair of strikeouts as he is starting to settle into his new role with the Cubs. Throw in the Miguel Amaya homer in the top of the eighth, it was the Cubs leading 4-1 with Adbert Alzolay called on to deliver the save.

Like so many of the Cubs relievers this season, Alzolay has had his early season struggles, but when he is locked in, he is as good as they come. Alzolay did allow a two-out single to Cal Raleigh, but that was it, as he struck out JP Crawford to end the game and picked up his second save of the season.

The Cubs had six hits in the win, two from Busch, who is now hitting .311 this season. Suzuki, Swanson, Amaya, and Mike Tauchman picked up the remaining hits. They will go for the series win on Sunday.

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