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Cubs 3, Orioles 2: All the Cubs needed was Willson Contreras (and a great play in the ninth)

The Cubs catcher hit a pair of homers and made two fine defensive plays, and the Cubs won their third straight.

Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Longtime Orioles manager Earl Weaver used to say his team won with “pitching, defense and three-run homers.”

The Cubs got the first two of those Thursday afternoon in Baltimore, and while they didn’t hit any three-run homers, three solo home runs were just enough to give the Cubs a 3-2 win over the O’s — but only because a great defensive play ended the game. It was the Cubs’ third win in a row and second straight by that score.

The Cubs got yet another fine outing from Adrian Sampson, and he helped keep the game scoreless in the fifth with a nifty fielding play. With one out and runners on first and third, Jorge Mateo tried a squeeze bunt. Look at this flip by Sampson! [VIDEO]

The Orioles challenged the call at the plate. It was one of those plays where if the runner had been called safe, it would have been “call stands,” and that’s what happened with the “out” call that was made by umpire Clint Vondrak, and so the game remained scoreless.

Just a few minutes later, Willson Contreras gave the Cubs the lead [VIDEO].

Don’t think I’ve ever seen that before — a ball hit the top of an outfield wall and bounce UP about 30 feet into the seats for a home run. It didn’t go that far, but it was far enough:

Sampson had yet another really good outing, but he could be odd man out if/when Wade Miley returns:

Sean Newcomb relieved Sampson with two out in the sixth and finished off the inning with a strikeout [VIDEO].

The Cubs added a pair of runs in the top of the eighth. Rafael Ortega led off the inning, pinch-hitting for Christopher Morel. Some of us have been critical of David Ross’ constant use of Ortega, as well as reflexively pinch-hitting a lefthanded bat for a righthanded bat to get the platoon advantage.

This time, it worked! [VIDEO]

It was Ortega’s sixth of the year and his first 2022 home run as a pinch hitter. One out later, Contreras crushed a ball for his second homer of the day [VIDEO].

The two home runs gave Willson 19 on the season, most by any MLB catcher and that one gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead. And that one went a LOT farther than the first one:

Newcomb, who had a 1-2-3 seventh, got in trouble with a pair of walks in the eighth. A single and passed ball helped put two Baltimore runs across the plate, but a contact play led to a tag at the plate, applied by Contreras [VIDEO].

Erich Uelmen eventually got out of that inning with a strikeout to keep the Cubs in the lead. The Cubs didn’t score in the ninth, and then Brandon Hughes entered for the save chance. The first hitter reached on an error and after a failed sacrifice bunt, Hughes allowed a singe. But the game ended quickly on this well-executed double play [VIDEO].

That was really heads-up play by Nick Madrigal and Nico Hoerner, who realized the runner was too far off the base and a quick throw completed the game-ending double play.

For Hughes, it was his first MLB save. Something tells me there will be more.

The Cubs thus completed a very good 5-2 road trip, but will have a quick turnaround to begin a three-game series against the Brewers Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Keegan Thompson will start for the Cubs and Aaron Ashby gets the start for Milwaukee. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (also on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Brewers market territories).