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Cubs 7, Blue Jays 5: At last, a win in Canada

The Cubs ended a 14-year losing streak north of the border.

Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

TORONTO — It required six relievers (seven, if you count Luke Farrell on what was a bullpen day) and some timely hitting, but Wednesday night the Cubs ended a losing streak in Canada that had lasted more than 14 years.

Sure, it was only a five-game Canadian losing streak (three in 2014, the first two in this series), but the Cubs’ 7-5 win over the Blue Jays was satisfying and in the end, well-played, and was the first Cubs victory north of the border since June 15, 2008.

As they have now done 39 times this year, the Cubs scored in the first inning and took the lead. (They’re just 19-20 in those 39 games.) Seiya Suzuki doubled with one out and one out later, Ian Happ drove him in [VIDEO].

They increased their lead to 2-0 in the second on an unexpected play. Yan Gomes singled with one out and advanced to second on a walk by Alfonso Rivas. A fly ball allowed Gomes to take third and then the Cubs tried a double steal [VIDEO].

That was... bizarre. First, the lead runner on that double steal, Gomes, had exactly five stolen base attempts in his entire career before that one (and none since 2020). Rivas has posted three steals this year in four attempts. These two are not speed merchants. And then, Bo Bichette seemed to pay absolutely no attention to Gomes heading home while Rivas backtracked to first base long enough to allow Gomes to score before being tagged out.

Weird, but the Cubs will take it. It doesn’t count as a stolen base for Gomes, though.

The Cubs put three on the board in the third. Zach McKinstry led off with a triple, but one out later was thrown out at the plate on a contact play. Franmil Reyes, who had hit that ground ball, advanced to third on a double by Ian Happ, his 35th of the year.

Both runners scored on a double by Nico Hoerner [VIDEO].

Rafael Ortega’s bloop single made it 5-0 [VIDEO].

The Cubs had their first five-run lead in a week. What could possibly go wrong? (Don’t answer that.)

Luke Farrell threw two scoreless innings, retiring the first six Jays he faced, before Teoscar Hernandez singled and Cavan Biggio smashed a long opposite-field home run to make it 5-2. Immediately, David Ross came to lift Farrell, and Manuel Rodriguez, who replaced him, retired the next six Jays in order.

The Cubs made it 6-2 in the fifth on this home run by Reyes into the Cubs bullpen [VIDEO].

What could possibly... well, you know.

Mark Leiter Jr. threw a scoreless fifth, but Erich Uelmen, who has been relatively solid since his callup, got hit hard in the sixth. The big blow was a three-run homer by Alejandro Kirk that brought the Jays to within one at 6-5.

The Cubs scored an important insurance run in the seventh. Rivas led off with a double and one out later, McKinstry drove him in [VIDEO].

The Blue Jays have their own song, which they play before “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch:

Back to the game: Michael Rucker had finished the sixth and with two out in the seventh, allowed a single by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Brandon Hughes was summoned and recorded the third out on a deep fly to center. Hughes then threw a scoreless eighth, and then it was closer time.

Rowan Wick hasn’t been good lately, but he was in this one. He retired the first two hitters in the ninth, then issued a walk. George Springer, representing the tying run, came to the plate.

Springer popped up to end the game [VIDEO].

The Cubs have had leads in five of the six games on this road trip, but won just two of those five games. In two of the three losses, they had leads in the sixth inning or later. This says to me: Better bullpen work would likely lead to more Cubs wins. This should be something Jed Hoyer & Co. should work on this offseason, and Hoyer has actually been pretty good at putting together a bullpen (and then trading it away, which obviously won’t happen if the team intends to contend in 2023). Obviously there are other needs as well (starting pitching, for one), but this team isn’t as far from contending as you might think.

The Cubs finished August with a 15-15 record, their first non-losing calendar month since May 2021, and also completed a 20-game stretch without an off day at 10-10. They’re 21-18 since the All-Star break.

Lastly, a note on my visit to Toronto and Rogers Centre: If you’ve never been to Toronto, by all means go — there’s lots to see and do, tons of great restaurants and the people are unfailingly polite and friendly. Gameday staff were efficient and helpful and the entire experience was great. The Cubs will be back in Toronto next year (August 11-12-13, 2023), under MLB’s new schedule where all teams play everyone every year. Well worth the trip up north — it’s only an eight-hour drive from Chicago.

They will enjoy a day off Thursday, then open a three-game series against the Cardinals in St. Louis Friday, their final meeting with their arch-rivals for 2023. Adrian Sampson will return to the active roster and start Friday’s game. He’ll be opposed by Jordan Montgomery, who shut out the Cubs on one hit at Wrigley Field last week. Game time Friday is 7:15 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.