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Cubs 7, Phillies 1: Back on track

The Cubs’ offense came alive and the pitching was solid. What more could you ask?

Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

The Cubs quickly put to rest Saturday any thoughts that they’d hit a solo home run and have no other runs. Two doubles, a single and a throwing error led to two first-inning runs, and it turned out that’s all they would need in this game, as Kyle Hendricks and two relievers limited the Phillies to just six hits in a 7-1 Cubs victory that evened up this three-game series.

Daniel Murphy led off the game with a double and then Javier Baez hit a soft grounder to shortstop. Phillies shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera probably should have just eaten the ball; instead he threw in the general direction of New Jersey and the ball headed toward the right-field corner. Murphy scored and Baez wound up on third, where he scored on a double by Ben Zobrist.

Hendricks, not accustomed to such gifts, threw a scoreless first inning, marked with just one walk, and the soft contact we’ve been accustomed to seeing when Kyle’s on. I mention the scoreless first because Hendricks has had a lot of trouble in the first inning this year, posting an 8.00 ERA with 10 home runs allowed in the first prior to Saturday. A scoreless first is a very good sign for Kyle.

The Cubs put two more runs on the board in the third. Anthony Rizzo singled with one out, and another out later Kris Bryant doubled, one of two hits he had in his first game back from the DL [VIDEO].

That brought up Kyle Schwarber [VIDEO].

Watching Kyle Schwarber motor around the bases for a triple was great fun. It was, believe it or not, Kyle’s second triple of the season, a career high (the other one was in this game). That cleared the bases for a 4-0 lead.

Hendricks allowed a run in the fourth, but otherwise his outing was very good: Six innings, six hits, two walks, four strikeouts, lots of soft contact (10 ground ball outs out of 18 total outs). It really does seem as if Kyle’s gotten back to where he was the last three years, and that’s a very good sign for the rest of September, as well as the postseason.

The lead was extended to 5-1 in the seventh thanks to Ian Happ [VIDEO].

Happ’s 14th homer of the season was his first since August 16 and just his third since the All-Star break. Happ’s been scuffling a bit so it’s good to see him break out with this home run.

Jesse Chavez threw two scoreless innings in relief of Hendricks, recording six outs on just 19 pitches. Chavez has been a revelation since his acquisition from the Rangers July 19, and he’ll certainly be an important part of the bullpen in the postseason.

Two more runs scored in the ninth. Victor Caratini reached on a throwing error, and two outs later, David Bote was sent up to bat for Chavez. He doubled to deep right-center, scoring Caratini, and then was driven in himself on a single by Baez. That hit produced Javy’s 99th RBI of the season, and he had three hits on the night.

Randy Rosario finished up efficiently with a 1-2-3 inning and the Cubs had their 80th win of the season and again moved to a season-high 25 games over .500.

Bote’s playing time will likely be reduced in September with Bryant’s return, but he is showing he’s a valuable player off the bench. As a pinch-hitter, Bote is 5-for-9 with two doubles, a home run, a walk, seven RBI and four runs scored.

Here’s what KB had to say [VIDEO] about his two-hit night on his return from the DL.

Thanks to the Reds and Nationals, the Cubs picked up the game in the standings that they had lost on Friday night. The Reds shut out the Cardinals 4-0 and after a rain delay of nearly two hours, the Nationals put up a four-run eighth and beat the Brewers 5-4, though not until after Milwaukee had the tying run on base in the ninth. That game didn’t end until nearly 1 a.m. local time in Washington, so the Brewers and Nats will be pretty tired to play their afternoon game Sunday.

All that puts the Cubs 4½ games ahead of St. Louis and five ahead of Milwaukee heading into Sunday’s action, and since it’s September I think I’m going to start noting the Cubs’ magic number. It’s now 23 to eliminate the Cardinals and 22 to eliminate the Brewers. The Cubs are five games ahead of St. Louis in the loss column and six ahead of Milwaukee.

Sunday, the Cubs go for the series win in Philadelphia. It won’t be easy, as Phillies ace Aaron Nola will be on the mound. But the Cubs counter with Jon Lester, who often steps up his game during pennant races. Game time is 12:35 p.m. CT and TV coverage is via WGN. The game preview will post at 11 a.m. CT.