Cubs crush Phillies for series win


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Photo: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Photo: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

In the rubber match of their three-game affair, the Chicago Cubs (41-17) defeated the Philadelphia Phillies (29-31) 8-1 to claim their second victory of the series. Bolstered by an excellent performance from starting pitcher John Lackey, as well as second baseman Ben Zobrist, the Cubs were practically flawless on the afternoon.

Recent Chicago Cubs call-up Albert Almora, a 22-year-old outfielder, made his first Major League start on Wednesday. Considered one of baseball’s top prospects before being promoted to the Big Leagues, Almora went 1-4 at the plate. Defensively, however, Almora made his presence felt early on, showing off his cannon of an arm in the bottom of the first by throwing out Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera as he tried to score from third following a fly out.

The game began on a glum note, with a 20-minute rain delay taking place. To make matters worse, Phillies starter Vince Velasquez exited his start after facing one batter due to right biceps soreness. A disconcerting injury for any right-handed pitcher, one can only hope that the ailment is not too serious.

Middle reliever Brett Oberholtzer took Velasquez’ place on the mound and pitched well for the most part. His only true mistake was not a bad pitch but, rather, a throwing error in the top of the fifth. After Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist singled to lead off the inning, Oberholtzer got Almora to fly out. Then, catcher Miguel Montero hit a grounder right back to Oberholtzer, but the pitcher was unable to convert the out at second, accruing an error to show for it. After that, Javier Baez, who started at shortstop today, singled to left, and Zobrist scored as a result. Oberholtzer took the loss for his outing, dropping to 2-1 this season.

Zobrist crossed home plate once again the following inning, but, this time, it was on his own accord. Hitting a home run to straight center, Zobrist answered third baseman Kris Bryant’s moonshot from two at-bats prior. One of Bryant’s two hits of the afternoon, the dinger over the left field wall brought in two runs, as right fielder Jason Heyward was on first after singling to start the inning. Zobrist’s homer soon after gave the Cubs a 4-0 lead and also gave Lackey plenty of breathing room. Pitching seven innings of three-hit ball, Lackey won his third straight start to move to 7-2 on the year. The veteran is pitching marvelously right now and is nearly unhittable.

The top of the eighth saw the Cubs ensure themselves of a victory, with four more runs added to their total. Kris Bryant scored his second run of the game by way of a double to deep left off the bat of first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Two batters later, Rizzo scored himself, reaching home via a single by Almora, his first-ever Big League hit. Baez, who was an impressive 4-4 on the day, got in on the action, too, driving in two runs with a single. Unfortunately for the young infielder, he was thrown out attempting to stretch the single into a double, but he was spectacular throughout the game, nonetheless.

A day after coming up short at the plate, the Cubs were back in top form offensively on Wednesday afternoon, garnering 13 total hits. Pitching-wise, the North Siders were phenomenal, as well, and if not for a meaningless run in the bottom of the ninth, they would have skunked the Phillies. The Cubs have Thursday off, but they pick back up with game action on Friday when they begin a three-game series at the Atlanta Braves (16-42). Considering the Braves sport the worst record in baseball, the red hot Cubs will assuredly be aiming for a sweep this weekend.

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