Imanaga outduels Burnes as Cubs shutout Orioles
Mitch Stringer - USA Today Sports

Imanaga outduels Burnes as Cubs shutout Orioles

by - Senior Writer -

BALTIMORE — Hey Chicago, what do you say? The Cubs are going to win today. It has been a while since the Chicago Cubs (44-49) have won three games in a row, as you have to go all the way back to April when that happened. They finally put an end to the stretch Wednesday night at Camden Yards, as the Cubs shut out the high-powered Baltimore Orioles (57-35) 4-0 and officially clinched the series.

When you looked at the pitching matchups for this series, this was the one matchup that you didn't feel confident with as Shota Imanaga took the ball against CY Young Favorite Corbin Burnes who knows this Cubs team very well. Given how potent the Orioles offense is and the way the weather conditions were, this wasn't an environment that you would expect Imanaga to excel in, as he has been known to give up a long ball or two.

Not only did he excel, but for the most part he did it in dominating fashion as he threw exactly 100 pitches to get through six innings and six shutout innings at that. He walked one and struck out six to improve to 8-2 on the season, lowering his ERA to 2.97.

“The days that I start, I'm going out there to win, help the team win,” Imanaga said via his interpreter, Edwin Stanberry after the game. “But that's only one win for one outing. It's not five or 10. So I think what's important [for our team] is to focus on each day and just get the wins, stacking up the wins and then don't think too far in the future.”

Burnes wasn't as sharp as Imanaga and was touched up for nine hits in six innings while allowing three runs. He walked none and stuck out five as his ERA rose to 2.43.

Anytime you enter a hostile environment, the best way to take the home crowd out of the game is to score early. The Cubs did that on Tuesday, and after the Orioles wasted a first-inning scoring chance, the Cubs capitalized in the second inning to get the scoring started. For the second straight game, a solo homer got the Cubs on the board, with Christopher Morel ending his long homerless drought with a solo shot to put the Cubs in front 1-0.

They would never trail, as the Cubs led this one from start to finish, making it three consecutive games in which they have accomplished that feat. That homer was followed by a pair of singles from Dansby Swanson and Pete Crow-Armstrong to keep the pressure on, with Nico Hoerner adding the fourth hit and third single of the inning to put the Cubs in front 2-0.

At the time, this didn't seem like a comfortable lead, but after letting a leadoff Austin Hays double go to waste in the second, the Orioles' offense struggled to get any consistent momentum going, although they did have plenty of deep fly balls that came as near homers. Still holding their 2-0 lead in the fifth, the Cubs continued to deliver with runners in scoring position, which has been an issue for this team most of the season.

This time, it came with Michael Busch reaching on a one-out double before coming home to score on the Seiya Suzuki single as the Cubs opened up a 3-0 lead. With two more hits, Busch is now hitting .275 for the season and has reached base in 27 straight starts as his excellent rookie season continues.

Trailing 3-0 in the sixth, Ryan Mountcastle helped set the offense up with a leadoff single before advancing to third on the Jordan Westburg double. This was the scoring chance the Orioles had been waiting for all night, but Imanaga had other plans as he recovered to strike out the next two hitters to finish off his outing, and he gave the Cubs six impressive innings once again.

“The sixth inning was great,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said. “With second and third there, a chance to do it again and he just just bore down. Two great at-bats. Two strikeouts. That was a heck of a way to finish and a heck of a start.”

Despite all the good news from the Cubs, there was some bad news, which came after Cody Bellinger was hit by a pitch in the seventh inning. Bellinger tried to tough it out, but he was removed in favor of Miles Mastrobuoni, as Craig Counsell said that he would be going in for further evaluation on Thursday.

Also, in the seventh inning, you had a brief rain storm that came through, which stopped play for less than 30 minutes, only to have the action pick up again. Anytime this happens, you worry about a team losing their momentum, and with Luke Little on to relieve Imanaga, the Orioles had something going as a hit-by-pitch, and the Gunnar Henderson single set the offense up to inch closer.

Little wasn't able to finish the inning, but he did keep them off the board before Porter Hodge came in to finish the job. He gave the Cubs 1 1/3 scoreless innings again to lower his ERA to 1.20 since the call-up. Although the Cubs led from start to finish in this one, a three-run lead over the Orioles can change instantly, so this lead never felt safe.

That was until a string of two-out hits in the ninth inning helped the Cubs add on, with Hoerner extending the inning with a double before he came in to score on another Busch single as the Cubs pushed their lead to 4-0 with Hector Neris set to close things out. All Neris proceeded to do, was retire the Orioles in order as he over came a one-out single by inducing a game ending double play as the Cubs clinched their series in Baltimore with a 4-0 win.

With 11 more hits, the Cubs have now had 25 hits in two games as they continue to play well and have won five of six. Busch, Hoerner, Bellinger, and Swanson led the way with two hits as Morel, Suzuki, and PCA picked up the rest of the hits.

The Cubs will go for the rare road sweep on Thursday when they send their road warrior Justin Steele to the mound to face Albert Suarez.

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