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Ben Brown, Christopher Morel spark Cubs to bounceback win in San Diego

1 month agoAndy Martinez

A day after having to dig deep into his bullpen in a gut-wrenching loss, Cubs manager Craig Counsell got some much-needed depth from a rookie starter on a pitch limit.

Ben Brown tossed 4.2 shutout innings in his first major-league start and Christopher Morel added his first grand slam as the Cubs bounced back from a tough loss Monday to beat the Padres 5-1.

Brown had pitched in relief as a length option in his first two big-league outings. But Tuesday he made his first start where he was on a pitch-count limit of around 75 pitches. Against a dangerous lineup, there was always the possibility that it could be a recipe for a short outing.

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But Brown was efficient and effective against the Padres’ lineup. The outing started a bit ominous. Xander Bogaerts coaxed a 7-pitch at-bat and then laced a double to open Brown’s night. But the Cubs’ defense backed up Brown. Fernando Tatís Jr. flew out to Cody Bellinger in center field. Bogaerts tried to tag up on the play, but Bellinger rifled a strike to Morel at third base for the 8-5 double play. He struck out Jake Cronenworth to end the inning.

“I thought the play by Cody was a huge play, get him settled in a bit,” Counsell said after the game.

“Oh, it’s sick,” Brown said of Bellinger’s play. “That was awesome.” 

In the 2nd inning, after allowing a leadoff single, Brown induced a double play from Jurickson Profar and struck out Ha-Seong Kim to keep his pitch count at a respectable 29 pitches.

He had a baserunner in each of his first 4 innings of work but worked out of each jam.

“I think the fastball stood out,” Counsell said. “I thought his fastball was excellent tonight. Certainly, for the first couple of innings it was better.”

That kept the Cubs’ offense with an opportunity to strike. And they had plenty of chances. The Cubs had a baserunner in each of their first 4 innings, too, and stranded 5 baserunners in that time. But they drove up the pitch count on Padres’ starter Joe Musgrove.

That paid off in the 5th inning.

Yan Gomes sent the first pitch of the frame beyond the center field wall to give the Cubs their first lead. And they added on to it. Ian Happ worked a 7-pitch walk, Seiya Suzuki singled and Bellinger was hit by a pitch to load the bases, ending Musgrove’s night.

Morel broke the game open 3 pitches later, crushing his first grand slam 431-feet.

The Cubs bullpen wouldn’t squander another lead.

Drew Smyly, Yency Almonte, Mark Leiter Jr. and Adbert Alzolay combined to pick up the final 13 outs for the Cubs, allowing 1 run — a solo home run from Eguy Rosario against Smyly in the 6th.

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