Fly the W: Cubs continue to rake in win over Rangers
Rick Scuteri - USA Today Sports

Fly the W: Cubs continue to rake in win over Rangers

by - Senior Writer -

MESA — I think it is safe to say that the Chicago Cubs are ready for the regular season to start. Despite getting off to a slow offensive start, this team has picked things up lately and is peaking at the right time. Not only are they scoring runs, but they lead the Cactus League in home runs, which continued to be the case against the Texas Rangers on Sunday.

Despite a slow start for both teams offensively that saw three runs scored in the first five innings, the Cubs' six-run sixth inning broke the game wide open and proved to be just enough in their 8-6 win over the Rangers. Javier Assad was in the running for the No. 5 start, but after a rough go of things to start spring, it appeared he pitched himself out of the running.

However, with Jameson Taillon opening the season on the IL, there may be an opening for Assad to start a few games this season, and he is making a case for that right now. Assad pitched into the fourth inning, allowing one run on four hits while striking out four. This was his best overall start of the Spring, which is a positive sign for the future.

Opposing him was hard-throwing right-hander Jose Urena, who has pitched very well this Spring. Urena gave the Rangers five strong innings, allowing two runs on four hits while also striking out four as pitching set the tone early. In what has been a common occurrence all Spring, the Cubs offense got rolling in a hurry as the one out Seiya Suzuki double set the offense up in the first. After a wild pitch moved Suzuki to third, Cody Bellinger put the Cubs in front with a sacrifice fly and they would never trail from there.

The Cubs offense was just getting started as they continued to make life difficult for Urena in the third. Once again, a one-out hit started things off, as Miguel Amaya reached with a single. That was followed by a second Urena wild pitch, which moved Amaya into scoring position before Ian Happ drove him in with a double.

For Happ, this was a massive game, as he returned from a hamstring injury and appears ready for the regular season. Bellinger added another single later in the third, but Happ was playing it safe with his hamstring and was held at third as the Cubs settled for the 2-0 lead.

The long run-off of Assad came in the top half of the fourth, but things could've been a lot worse. After Leody Tavares and Evan Carter started the inning with singles, stand-out prospect Wyatt Langford kept the line moving, making it three singles in a row to pull the Rangers within 2-1. That would be as close as the Rangers would get as Assad and Yency Almonte buckled down to retire the next three hitters to prevent further damage.

With the score still at 2-1 in the sixth, the Cubs' offense finally came to life, and that came against a new Rangers pitcher, Jonathan Hernandez. What started with a one-out Bellinger walk was followed by an error, as the Cubs had runners on the corners and one out. With just one swing, a 2-1 game turned into a 5-1 lead as Jake Slaughter belted his first homer of the Spring to put the Cubs in front by four.

A Michael Busch triple and Nico Hoerner single followed that homer as the Cubs opened up a 6-1 lead. Already with four runs across, Christian Franklin capped off the scoring for the Cubs as his two-run blast made things 8-6 and proved to be the winning hit of the ball game as the Rangers offense did their best to mount a late-game comeback.

Their comeback attempt started in the seventh with Edwin Escobar on the mound as a leadoff walk followed by the Jared Walsh homer made this an 8-3 ballgame. Throw in an Ezequiel Duran single to keep the line moving, and the Rangers kept the pressure on, only to see Escobar retire the next two men to come close to working out of the jam. Craig Counsell elected to go with Sam McWilliams to finish things off, but he didn't make things easy as he promptly allowed a two-run blast to Justin Foscue, and just like that, the Rangers pulled within 8-5.

The Rangers continued to keep the pressure on against Richard Lovelady in the eighth as they pulled within 8-6 on the Sandro Fabian double that saw fans starting to grow a bit restless. As he has done so much this Spring, Lovelady bounced back to retire the next three hitters and got the Cubs out of the eighth with the lead.

Looking to add on in the bottom of the eighth, Juan Mora and Franklin picked up a pair of two-out singles but were unable to score, as the Cubs were down to their final three outs to seal things off. Daniel Palencia was chosen to lock things down, and after allowing a leadoff single to start things off, Palencia bounced back to finish things off, as the Cubs took down the Rangers 8-6.

The Cubs will now enjoy their final off day of the Spring before settling in for their final spring stretch.

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