Sampson dominates Reds to cap off September
The Cubs are on a roll of late (Matt Marton - USA Today Sports)

Sampson dominates Reds to cap off September

by - Senior Writer -

CHICAGO - Too bad baseball couldn't be played in two halves like at the Minor League level. If that were the case, the Chicago Cubs (71-86) would be in the running for a playoff spot. With a 36-29 record in the second half, the Cubs have guaranteed themselves a winning record after the all-star break, which is an accomplishment.

To take it a bit further, this team has won nine of their last 10, including a 6-1 win against the Cincinnati Reds (60-97) at Wrigley Field on Friday, and they have secured a winning month of September. That is the team's first winning month since May of last season, coming off a .500 August.

A big reason for their sudden turnaround is a starting staff that has been lights out for the better part of two months. Their ERA dropped below 3.00 over that time, and they are third in MLB behind the Astros and Dodgers, with a chance at getting into second.

What stands out even more, is the names that are producing at this level, with most of them being minor leaguers or players who were not in the rotation when the year began. Adrian Sampson is one of those guys and has delivered one of the best months he could ask for.

Despite a 4-5 record on the season, Sampson has been as consistent as they come posting a 3.10 ERA for the season. Small sample size or not, he has given the Cubs 140 innings the last two seasons with an ERA of 3.23. That is enough of a sample size to garner consideration for next year.

If that doesn't get you excited, why not look at the run he put together in September? Across six starts this month, Sampson gave the Cubs 36 innings of work while posting just a 1.50 ERA. After going seven innings and allowing just one run on Friday, those numbers went down even more as he has been the Cubs best start this month.

Going up against rookie Graham Ashcraft, the Cubs offense was on fire early as they chased Ashcraft before the end of the third inning after he surrendered six runs. That was the second time in as many starts that he failed to make it out of the third at Wrigley and surrendered 13 earned runs in those two outings. Despite not scoring another run the rest of the way, the Cubs didn't need it as they continued to play inspiring ball with a 6-1 win.

There haven't been too many times over the last two weeks where the Cubs have been trailing on the scoreboard first. This was one of the rare occasions when that happened, with Jake Fraley unloading for a long solo shot against Sampson in the second inning for the 1-0 lead. Apart from that, Sampson was as good as he has been for the last month, with the Reds being able to do much of anything off him.

When it comes to the Cubs, they have been fortunate that their pitching has been great because, offensively, things have been a struggle lately. A big reason for that has been the quality of pitching the team has faced, but wins are wins, and that is all that matters.

Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the second, the Cubs offense got rolling and made life miserable for Ashcraft. That started with a leadoff single from Ian Happ, followed by a ground-rule double by Franmil Reyes to put two runners on and no outs. Several pitches later saw Nico Hoerner come through as his RBI double put the Cubs in front for good and put the Cubs up 2-1.

Still, in the second inning, but with two outs, the suddenly hot Christopher Morel came through again as his RBI double down the right field line gave the Cubs a 3-1 lead and capped off a three-run inning. The next inning saw the Cubs offense at it again as their relentless approach against Ashcraft gave him fits.

What started with a Seiya Suzuki leadoff single, the Cubs loaded the bases with Happ and Reyes taking one-out walks. Once again, Hoerner's bat came through for the Cubs as hustle on a bouncing ball not only led to an RBI fielder's choice, but an error on the same play forced an additional run to come home with the Cubs leading 5-1. Yan Gomes capped off the second consecutive three-run inning with a bloop double down the right field line as the Cubs were in complete control at this point, 6-1.

That would be all the offense the team would need as Sampson continued to do his thing on the mound. That proved especially important as Connor Overton came into the game for Ashcraft and retired the first 14 hitters he faced before allowing a single to Happ in the eighth.

Sampson closed out his outing with a pretty strong run of his own before running into some trouble in the seventh, with Fraley and Donovan Solano picking up one-out singles. As he has done so often this season, Sampson made the pitch he needed to make and got out of that jam by inducing an inning-ending double play.

Erich Uelmen and Rowan Wick took care of the rest as they retired six of the seven hitters they faced in the final two innings.

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