Cubs win seventh straight behind strong offensive showing
David Kohl - USA Today Sports

Cubs win seventh straight behind strong offensive showing

by - Senior Writer -

SCOTTSDALE - With the Baseball Classic set to begin tonight and approaching the mid-way point of Spring Training, the Cubs are the hottest team in the Cactus League, as they have gone a week without a loss. Typically, the pitching has carried them this spring, as both the starters and the bullpen have been lights out.

However, today it was about the offense as they picked up Adrian Sampson, who had another rough outing. The Cubs pounded out 11 hits and erupted for their highest offensive output since their first spring training game as the Cubs topped the Rangers 9-6 for their seventh straight win.

Sampson is one of three pitchers battling it out for the final spot in the rotation, but things haven't gone smoothly thus far. After a rough outing in his first appearance, he was even worse the second time as he allowed six earned runs in just 2 2/3 innings. He walked two and struck out two as his ERA is approaching 21.00 in spring.

While you may not be able to win a job immediately in spring training, you certainly can lose a job, and Sampson is on the verge of losing the No. 5 starting spot with these performances. He is searching for answers, and with two or three starts left, time is running out for him to figure things out.

So far, one of the biggest concerns regarding the Cubs offense has been their lack of overall power. Sure, they are scoring plenty of runs, but you would like to see the long ball start to become part of their game. Edwin Rios has been providing some of that power in recent games as he connected for his second homer in three games to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first. Rios is starting to make a case to be the opening-day third basemen, as his power potential is beginning to show.

Scoring first has not been an issue for the Cubs, and that was a trend that they were very good at last season. However, their lead didn't last long, as the Rangers came out swinging in the bottom of the first. Marcus Stroman led things off with a single and then trotted home on the Corey Seager homer that saw Texas take a 2-1 lead. That one-two punch atop that lineup will be lethal this season and could be a massive part of what the Rangers do and where they go this season.

Sampson continued to labor in the first, walking Mitch Garver with one out, but was on the verge of getting out of things without further damage. That was until Bubba Thompson connected for the second two-run shot of the inning as Texas was off and running 4-1. Down, but not out, the Cubs continued to keep the pressure on Rangers starter Cole Wynn in the second inning, with Mike Tauchman leading things off with a walk.

A Christopher Morel single followed that, and just like that, the Cubs had two on and no outs. On the verge of getting out of the jam with no damage, Sergio Alcantara ensured that wouldn't happen as he connected for his first of two RBI hits with a single to make things 4-2.

With Sampson settling in after his rough first inning, Seager opened the third with a walk, and Texas was in a similar situation to the Cubs, where they nearly stranded a leadoff runner. Leave it to Josh Jung to prevent that, as the third homer of the day off of Sampson gave the Rangers a 6-2 lead. Not only was that the end of the road for Sampson, but that would be all the offense Texas would get with Adbert Alzolay and company ready to take care of business in relief.

One thing you notice about the Cubs this spring is their patience at the plate and the overall fight in this team. With David Bote and Christopher Morel leading off the fourth with walks, Sergio Alcantara came through again as his RBI double pulled the Cubs within 6-4. Throw in a Nick Madrigal walk and the Cody Bellinger RBI fielders choice, and the Cubs continued to claw back and trailed 6-5 heading to the bottom of the fourth.

With Alzolay doing his thing as the first of several arms out of the pen, it gave the Cubs offense a chance, and it was a chance they didn't want to waste. Still trailing by a run in the sixth, the Cubs pulled even when Pete Crow-Armstrong reached on an error. Armstrong has been impressive this spring, showing his elite speed on the bases and gold glove potential as he made an incredible catch on the warning track later in the game.

With Anthony Kay closing out another scoreless inning of relief for the Cubs, Luis Torrens gave Chicago the lead for good in the seventh as his solo shot put the Cubs in front 7-6. Torrens was not finished, as he would later add a second solo shot in the ninth to extend the lead. Before we can get to the ninth, you must look at the eighth, where Cam Sanders ran into trouble.

The hard-throwing right-hander continued showing his terrific potential, but did run into trouble after allowing a Dustin Harris single and the Luisangel Acuna walk. However, Sanders would finish the inning with the lead as he struck out Beycker Barroso to end the frame.

With just three outs standing in their way of another win, the Cubs offense wasn't about to stop now, with Torrens going deep for the second time in as many at-bats to make things 8-6. That was followed up by the Nelson Maldonado double, who came around to score on the two-out Luis Vazquez single to make things 9-6. Sanders finished things off from there with a scoreless ninth to give the Cubs the 9-6 win.

Scoring nine runs on just 11 hits show how well the Cubs managed to capitalize on their chances. Rios, Vazquez, Torrens, and Alcantara each had two hits in the win, with Alcantara grabbing three RBIs and Torrens two. Apart from Alzolay and Stout, who combined to throw 2 1/3 innings, the other three arms tossed multiple innings as the Cubs continue to play great baseball.

Technically the Cubs have Wednesday off as they will not play a Cactus League game. However, they play Team Canada at Sloan Park as Justin Steele will make his second start of the spring.

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