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Astros 9, Cubs 6: The battle of the home runs

The Cubs hit five home runs ... but lost.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

If I had told you, before this game started, that the Cubs would smash five home runs, you’d probably think they’d win the game, right?

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. This game turned out distressingly like Monday’s, in which the Cubs got an early lead, blew it, came back, but lost anyway, this time 9-6 to the Astros, their third loss in a row. It’s the first time since that six-game losing streak in March/April that the Cubs have lost three straight.

Further, it’s just the 13th time in franchise history that a Cubs team has hit at least five home runs and lost. The last time before Tuesday was August 17, 2017, to the Reds at Wrigley Field. Here’s a list of the other 12 games.

Nevertheless, there were a few good things that happened in this game, so let’s have a look.

The Astros took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but the Cubs promptly got that back. Leading off the second inning, Jason Heyward tied the game up [VIDEO].

That was Heyward’s eighth of the year, matching his total from all of 2018. Despite J-Hey’s low BA, he’s hitting for decent power (current SLG .413).

The next hitter was Addison Russell, and he gave the Cubs the lead [VIDEO].

That was Russell’s fourth of the year, and third in his last four games. He hit five all of last year.

One out later, David Bote gave the Cubs their third homer of the inning [VIDEO].

Check out the height and launch angle on that one:

Jon Lester, though, did not have it again Tuesday night. Alex Bregman homered off him in the third to make it 3-2 Cubs, and then the Astros had an inning much like their five-run frame Monday. Four runs piled across the plate for them in the fourth, giving the Astros a 6-3 lead.

The Cubs, though, were not done hitting home runs. After a walk to Daniel Descalso with one out in the sixth, Bote again [VIDEO].

That made this game the second multi-homer game of Bote’s career (both this year). The Cubs now trailed 6-5, but not for long, right, Kyle Schwarber? [VIDEO].

The game’s now tied heading to the bottom of the sixth. And Lester, who struggled all night with command, nearly got out of it tied. He got the first two outs in the last of the sixth on just four pitches. At that point, I thought if he could get the third out quickly, he might even be able to throw the seventh.

But Derek Fisher worked a walk on a seven-pitch at-bat, and at 102 pitches that was it for Jon. Joe Maddon summoned Brad Brach, and that turned out to be the wrong choice, because Bregman sent Brach’s first pitch into the seats for his second home run of the game and an 8-6 Houston lead.

The Cubs had the tying runs on base in the seventh off our old friend Hector Rondon, but Descalso grounded out to end that inning. Brach allowed a two-out single and an RBI double to make it 9-6 Astros in the bottom of the seventh. Bote led off the eighth with a double, his third hit of the game, but was stranded. And unlike Monday, when the Cubs hit a pair of homers off Astros closer Roberto Osuna, in this one Osuna retired the Cubs 1-2-3 in the ninth, and that was that.

Even without Kris Bryant, there was nothing wrong with the Cubs’ offense in this one. They had nine hits and six walks, and scored six runs (all of them via the home run, four solo homers and one with a runner on) despite going 0-for-9 with RISP. Pitching, again, was the issue. After a really good run of both starting and relief pitching for several weeks, Cubs pitching has been very shaky over the last six games, five of those losses. The Cubs have been outscored 46-33 in those six games and the opposition has scored at least six runs in all of them. Now, 33 runs scored in six games is pretty good — that’s 5.5 runs per game, slightly better than the Cubs’ season average of 5.4. But you can’t give up 7.7 runs per game and expect to win. The pitching is just going to have to get better. Pedro Strop, who had his first rehab outing Tuesday evening, should be back soon. That will help. Based on this, Pedro could be back this weekend:

The good news is that everyone else in the N.L. Central (except the Reds, who beat the Pirates) also lost Tuesday, so the Cubs remain half a game in first place over the Brewers and lead the Cardinals and Pirates by four games. The Reds trail by five. The Cubs and Brewers, as of Wednesday morning, are the only teams in the division over .500.

The Cubs will try to avoid the sweep Wednesday evening. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Wade Miley, who dominated the Cubs last year for the Brewers, goes for Houston. Game time again is 7:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago, with a national broadcast on ESPN.