Cubs down Astros in rubber match
|Sunday, September 11, 2016, 11:49 PM- -|
HOUSTON -- With Jake Arrieta on the mound for the Chicago Cubs (91-51) in the rubber match of their three-game series against the Houston Astros (75-68) on Sunday night, the ace’s efforts were not exactly required, as the Cubs scored nine runs in the game’s first four innings and went on to down the Astros 9-5.
Led by shortstop Addison Russell, who was been on fire as of late, the Cubs were a force to be reckoned with at the plate in tonight’s matchup. As for Arrieta, he pitched 5.1 innings of four-hit ball before being pulled. He did earn the win for his efforts, improving to 17-6 overall.
Third baseman Kris Bryant incited the Cubs’ torrid scoring affair early, driving in center fielder Dexter Fowler during the top of the first with a double to left, Bryant’s 94th RBI of the season. Russell led off the ensuing inning with a single and was later brought home on a sacrifice fly by catcher David Ross, putting the Cubs up 2-0.
Astros starting pitcher Mike Fiers lasted only 2.1 innings on the bump, giving up seven runs and as many hits in that brief span. Shaky from the start, Fiers struggled with command issues, epitomized by a wild pitch in the second inning that enabled Cubs second baseman Javier Baez to score from third and provide the Cubs with an early 3-0 lead.
The Cubs scored four more runs in the third to earn a resounding 7-0 advantage. Jorge Soler, who was serving as the Cubs’ designated hitter on the night, hit his 11th homer of the season, and Baez and right fielder Albert Almora, Jr., both hit RBI singles. Almora, whose third-inning single scored two runs, also flashed the leather on Sunday with a diving catch in right.
Russell essentially assured the Cubs of a victory in the top of the fourth with a two-run home run to left that made the score 9-0 in favor of Chicago. The round-tripper, Russell’s 20th of the year, landed on the railroad tracks inside of Minute Maid Park, fitting for the runaway train that the Cubs proved to be on the night.
The last time that a Cubs shortstop hit over 20 homers in a season was when the late, great Ernie Banks hit 29 of them in 1961, meaning that Russell will be the first Cubs shortstop to do so in over 50 years with his next long ball. And, though the chances of this occurring are extremely slim, with the way that he has been hitting the ball as of late, Russell might just reach that Banks milestone by the end of the regular season. Russell was 3-4 with two RBI in tonight's game.
From that point on, the Astros proceeded to score five runs but never truly threatened. Star Houston second baseman Jose Altuve hit a solo home run in the fourth, and the Astros managed to score two additional runs off of Arietta in the sixth, resulting in the right-hander departing the game.
Chicago reliever Trevor Cahill stepped onto the rubber at the start of the bottom of the ninth and did not fare well, giving up back-to-back home runs, but Travis Wood relieved him and went three up, three down, thus securing the Cubs’ 9-5 win over the Astros.
The win marked the second victory for the Cubs in the three-game road series against the Astros, a former divisional foe. With the W, Chicago became the first team to eclipse the 90-win mark this season.
The Cubs will now travel to St. Louis to battle the Cardinals (75-67) for a three-game affair between the National League Central’s top two teams. Trailing the Cubs by 16 games in the divisional standings, the Cardinals will assuredly be looking to make up some ground in the upcoming series, and the Cubs will be looking to carry their momentum from tonight’s fantastic hitting performance forward.