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Cubs use 9th inning rally to pick up first win under manager Craig Counsell

3 weeks agoAndy Martinez

A two-game stretch is never a perfect indication of what a team is or isn’t.

But when a team has a pair of tough games to open the season, there’s a bit more worry amongst the fanbase than the exact same sequence occurring in June, August or even in a couple of weeks.

So, a 9-5 win over the Rangers in the series finale in Texas isn’t a sign that everything is fine and merry with the Cubs — but it sends out exponentially better vibes than a loss would have, especially the way they did it.

The Cubs showed a patient approach at the plate and some timely hitting in the 9th inning as they scored 4 runs to break open a tie game. The bullpen covered 5 scoreless innings, stymying a potent offense. It provided cover to starter Jordan Wicks, who left after 4 innings, an outing cut short by defensive miscues by the Cubs’ defense and the Rangers’ plate discipline.

With one out in the 9th, Michael Busch coaxed a walk against closer José Leclerc and advanced to second on an infield single from Nico Hoerner. The Cubs loaded the bases on a Mike Tauchman walk.

It was there where it seemed like the trend from the first two games was rearing its head. Pinch-hitter Miles Mastrobuoni grounded into a fielder’s choice that nabbed Busch at home. The Cubs had been 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and 3-for-22 with runners on base entering Sunday.

But Ian Happ, already sitting on a 4-hit game, battled back from a 1-2 count to work a walk and give the Cubs the lead. Seiya Suzuki followed it up with a 2-run single and Cody Bellinger roped a hard ground ball to first that scored Happ to make it 9-5.

“The best way to score is to put consistent pressure,” manager Craig Counsell said after his first win as a Cubs manager. “We put really good pressure on them today and that’s gonna lead to good offense.”

Wicks’ outing might’ve lasted just 4 innings, but some uncharacteristic defense led the rookie to some longer innings and some more runs for Texas. He allowed 5 runs — 2 earned — on 5 hits with 3 walks and 6 strikeouts. Christopher Morel made a throwing error in the 2nd inning with 1 out. Wicks then issued a pair of 2-out walks and a single to Marcus Semien to make it 3-2.

The Rangers scored 3 more runs in the 4th and had the go-ahead run on third base after a 2-run triple from rookie Wyatt Langford.

Wicks settled in and struck out Josh Jung and Adolis García to end the rally and his day.

“I think it was just slowing the game down and executing pitches,” Wicks said. “For me, I think [catcher Miguel Amaya] did a good job of slowing it down for me.”

After Mark Leiter Jr. pitched a scoreless 5th, Julian Merryweather tossed a pair of shutout innings to keep the Cubs in the game. Héctor Neris picked up the win with a clean 8th inning and Adbert Alzolay threw a perfect 9th to close it out.

The Cubs open their home slate Monday against Colorado. Shota Imanaga will make his major-league debut.

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