Cubs score five runs in sixth inning, crush Rangers
|Friday, July 15, 2016, 5:12 PM- -|
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs appeared to be well-rested in their first game back from the All-Star break on Friday afternoon, using a five-run sixth inning to cruise by the Texas Rangers at home. Despite looking solid through the first five innings, Rangers starting pitcher Martin Perez fell apart in the bottom of the sixth, giving up several critical hits in rapid succession. The Cubs won the first matchup of the three-game interleague series by a final margin of 6-0, shutting out the team with the best winning percentage in the American League.
The Cubs found themselves in a dangerous position at the start of the game after rookie catcher Willson Contreras allowed Rangers leadoff hitter Rougned Odor to advance to second on a passed ball. The multi-talented second baseman had reached first by way of a single to left and eventually advanced to third following the passed ball and a groundout. Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks was in a jam soon after, with Odor on third, third baseman Adrian Beltre on first and power-hitting first baseman/vegetarian Prince Fielder at bat. However, Hendricks refused to cave in under pressure and forced Fielder into an inning-ending groundout.
Cubs shortstop Addison Russell, who was 2-4 on the afternoon, hit a one-out double to deep left in the bottom of the second and, after a groundout allowed him to advance to third, was brought home on a single to left by second baseman Javier Baez.
The Cubs would maintain that 1-0 lead for quite some time, as neither team experienced much offensive success for the next three and a half innings. The bottom of the sixth saw the Cubs’ bats come alive, though, with five runs being scored on four hits.
After third baseman Kris Bryant led off the action in the bottom half of the sixth with a single to left-center, first baseman Anthony Rizzo crushed a double to deep right that enabled Bryant to take third. An ensuing walk of Contreras loaded the bases, bringing Russell to the plate. Fresh off of an All-Star Game start, Russell was in All-Star form on Friday, and his sixth-inning at-bat broke open the floodgates for the Cubs. Coming through with a clutch single to center, Russell brought Bryant and Rizzo home and advanced Contreras to second, thus providing the Cubs with a 3-0 lead.
The Cubs then reaped the benefits of a throwing error by Fielder after he corralled a grounder hit by right fielder Jason Heyward but was, evidently, unable to control his right arm. As a result, Contreras scored, Russell made it to third and Heyward made it to second. Although the Cubs’ next two batters both made outs, pinch hitter Matt Szczur, who was hitting in place of Hendricks, scored two more runs on an ensuing single to center. For some unbeknownst reason, Perez remained in the game throughout that shellacking and was not pulled until after Szczur’s single, which gave the Cubs a 6-0 lead.
The Cubs coasted from that point on, with Chicago’s relievers making quick work of Texas’ batters. Carl Edwards, Jr., pitched a three up, three down seventh, Travis Wood and Pedro Strop took care of business in the eighth and Justin Grimm sealed the deal in the ninth. Winning 6-0, the Cubs looked practically flawless from start to finish on Friday.
Hendricks collected the win on the day, pushing him to 8-6 overall. The young right-hander pitched a gem, giving up only three hits in six innings pitched. As for Perez, he, of course, earned the loss, dropping him to 7-6 overall. Surprisingly, the Cubs only amassed two more hits than the Rangers, but Perez’ sixth-inning meltdown did Texas in.
The Cubs entered Friday’s outing an unimpressive 14-20 in their last 34 games. Therefore, getting off to a good start to the regular season’s second half was pivotal for the North Siders, and they did just that. The victory moved the Cubs to 54-35 overall and extended their lead in the National League Central to 7.5 games. The Rangers, who now hold a five-game lead in the American League West, fell to 54-37 on the season. Game two of the interleague affair will take place tomorrow afternoon, with Rangers ace Yu Darvish returning from injury and set to square off against Cubs starting pitcher Jason Hammel.
Holy cow! It’s Harry Caray… er, Ryan Dempster singing the stretch! pic.twitter.com/v2a8naTaos— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 15, 2016