Contreras had two homers in the win (Jessica Rapfogel - USA Today Sports)
Contreras had two homers in the win (Jessica Rapfogel - USA Today Sports)

Trio of homers lift Cubs past Orioles


by - Senior Writer -

BALTIMORE - Looking to finish off their seven-game trip with a 5-2 record, the Chicago Cubs (50-67) traveled to Camden Yards to take on the Baltimore Orioles (61-57) for a rare one-game set. That is because this was a make-up game from earlier in the season where the Orioles took it took the Cubs in both games.

Expecting another challenging game for Chicago, the Cubs managed to come out on top as a trio of homers lifted the Cubs to the 3-2 win. When it comes to starting pitching, wins and losses are the most meaningless stat in the game. If you look at how Adrian Sampson pitched this season, there is no way he should have been 0-3 entering Thursday's contest.

Sampson was on top of his game yet again, as the right-hander allowed just four hits with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. His ERA now sits at 3.51 as he continues to make a case to be part of this team next season. For Baltimore, the young right-hander Spenser Watkins was on the mound as he was making his second start against the Cubs this season.

In his first outing, Watkins was impressive as he got through five innings to pick up the win. Watkins was solid yet again, pitching into the sixth this time around and allowing just one run on five hits before giving way to the bullpen. Throughout the first three innings, not only did both teams have limited baserunners, but a two-out triple by Cedric Mullins in the third was the only runner to reach scoring position.

The Cubs got in on the fun during the fourth inning when Ian Happ connected for a one-out double, but was left stranded on the bases. It took five innings for someone to be put in a jam, and that someone was Sampson, as he was in big trouble. Following a one-out double from Austin Hays, Rougned Odor added a single to put runners on the corners, with Sampson searching for help.

He would get that help over the next two hitters by inducing a pair of soft contact outs to get out of the jam and kept things scoreless for the time being. With one out in the sixth, the Cubs finally cashed in as Willson Contreras took a Watkins pitch the opposite way to make things 1-0. A Happ single followed that homer, but nothing more came from that.

Now that both starters were out of the game, it was up to the bullpens to keep things close as they have been struggling lately. After watching Ryan McKenna and Sean Newcomb toss a scoreless seventh, the Cubs offense started to show signs of life in the eighth as they were looking to pull away.

Not only did Rafael Ortega lead things off with a pinch-hit homer, but Contreras answered that two batters later with his second long ball of the game to put the Cubs in front 3-0. For Contreras, it was his 19th homer of the season, and you can tell now that the trade talks are over, his mind is much clearer than it was earlier in the season.

With Newcomb still on the mound in the eighth, the Orioles started to chip away at the Cubs lead, using terrific plate discipline to get the job done. Not only did Mullins walk to start things off, but so did Adley Rutschman to put a pair of runners on base with no outs. That forced David Ross's hand to return to his pen as right-hander Erich Uelmen was thrown into a tough spot.

Four pitches into the first hitter he faced, the Orioles were on the board with Ryan Mountcastle making it three straight singles to begin the inning. With a passed ball moving Mountcastle to second, the Orioles pulled within 3-2 as Anthony Santander picked up the sacrifice fly. That would be all the offense for the Orioles in that inning as Uelmen settled back in to retire the next two hitters and got the game into the ninth with the lead.

Looking to finish things off for the Cubs after they went down in order was Brandon Hughes as he was called on to convert the save. Having a leadoff error to open the inning is never a good sign, but Hughes was backed up by a costly miscue by the Orioles with a popped-up bunt leading to the first out. Following the Jorge Mateo single that put the tying run at second, Hughes made the pitch he needed to make and induced a game-ending double play to give the Cubs a 3-2 win and their third straight victory.

The Cubs had eight hits in the win, with Contreras, Happ, and Franmil Reyes leading the way with two. Nelson Velazquez and Ortega picked up the other two, while Hughes collected his first MLB save.

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