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Cubs pick up much-needed series win behind Hayden Wesneski, Michael Busch

6 days agoAndy Martinez

With the rain beginning to fall even more, Michael Busch gave the Cubs all the protection they needed with one swing of the bat.

Busch’s 2-run home run in the 7th inning gave the Cubs added insurance to pick up a 5-0 win and a much-needed series win over the struggling Angels. It’s just the 4th series win for the Cubs since the start of May.

“We’re always trying to win,” said Hayden Wesneski, who twirled 6.1 innings of shutout, 1-hit ball. “We understand the pressures of it. We expect to win so it’s just part of it. I think we’re playing pretty good baseball right now. So let’s just continue to rattle wins off and that’s really it.”

The Cubs moved to 7 games under .500 and remain 6 back in the NL Wild Card picture as the final week before the All-Star break commences.

“We don’t have margin for error, for sure — and that’s just in the scope of the season, we don’t have margin for error,” manager Craig Counsell said before the game. “We, frankly, haven’t strung together a stretch in the last couple of months that’s been good enough. We’ve got to string together a better stretch to just have a better record and have a record that can get us in a conversation.”

A performance like Sunday can help in doing so.

Wesneski was terrific — he allowed just a 1-out single in the 1st — pitching into the 7th for the second time this season. After the hit, Wesneski retired 18 straight Angels.

Despite the masterclass from Wesneski, the Cubs had mustered just 3 runs through the 6th and stranded the bases loaded in the 4th, keeping the Angels in striking distance.

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That’s why, in the 7th, Counsell turned to one of his leverage arms — Porter Hodge. Wesneski allowed a pair of runners to reach sparking the turn to the bullpen. Hodge induced a weak grounder from Logan O’Hoppe and a flyout from Zach Neto to kill the threat.

Busch’s home run in the bottom half of the frame helped them get some more breathing room — and it was evident in the 9th. After the Angels loaded the bases with two outs in the frame against Luke Little, Counsell turned to Héctor Neris to pick up the final out.

“Those are big swings just to give you that cushion,” Counsell said. “The 9th inning would’ve been a completely different inning with the 3-run lead or a 5-run lead So those are big swings, huge swings.”

The Cubs have played the most 1-run games in baseball this season — 33. Being able to tack on and not have to rely on leverage arms consistently has a positive trickle-down effect.

It’s what the Cubs hope to accomplish before the Midseason Classic if they hope to be playing more meaningful games in the final two-plus months of the season. A series win is a good place to start, too.

“I think that’s what we need to start doing,” Counsell said. “We need to win series and that’s kind of the goal you put in front of yourself every three days, every four days. We won a series and gonna go play a really good baseball team now in Baltimore. Will be a challenge, but that’s kind of the mindset we have to put ourselves in.”

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