Cubs shell Fiers; Cruise to 9-5 win

Springer TOOTBLAN in first
(c) Associated Press

Early mistakes put the Astros in a deep hole against the Cubs Sunday night. Chicago built a 9-0 lead by the fourth inning, enabling them to hold on despite a barrage of home runs by the Astros late in the game.

Mike Fiers walked the first batter of the game, our old friend Dexter Fowler, and super-sophomore Kris Bryant doubled him home one pitch later.

George Springer drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the first but was thrown out trying to advance to second on a pitch that bounced a few feet away from catcher David Ross.

A throwing error and a wild pitch helped the Cubs plate two runs in the second inning to extend their lead to 3-0.

Fiers only managed to get one out in the third before allowing four consecutive hitters to reach base, prompting A.J. Hinch to call in Jandel Gustave from the bullpen with the Astros now trailing 5-0. A bloop single to centerfield landed just out of the reach of Jake Marisnick allowing two more Cubbies to cross the plate.

Addison Russell clubbed a 2-run homer off Gustave in the fourth and the rout was officially on.

In the bottom of the fourth, Jose Altuve smacked his 23rd homer of the season to get Houston on the board. The Astros rallied for two runs in the sixth thanks in part to a streak of wildness from Cubs hurlers. Jake Arrieta hit Springer with a pitch and Alex Bregman drove him home with a double off the leftfield wall. After a Jose Altuve single, Arrieta threw two wild pitches before walking A.J. Reed and was replaced on the mound by Justin Grimm. The reliever walked Yulieski Gurriel to load the bases but then squelched the rally by retiring Evan Gattis and Colby Rasmus on fly balls.

Trevor Cahill kept the Astros offense at bay in the seventh and eighth innings before getting ambushed in the ninth. Gurriel launched Cahill's first ninth-inning offering into the leftfield seats to trim Chicago's lead to 9-4. Gattis destroyed the next pitch to make it 9-5 and send Cahill to the showers.

Joe Maddon summoned Travis Wood from the bullpen and the lefty set down the next three Astros hitters to secure the win and the series victory for the Cubbies.

If you're looking for a silver lining, four Astros relievers held the Cubs hitless over the final five innings. One of those relievers was Brady Rodgers, who notched two scoreless frames after struggling mightily in his first two big league outings.

- Greg Thurston