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Cubs 6, Royals 4: A tale of two games

The Cubs appeared to be on their way to an easy win... until they had to hang on for dear life.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Drip... drip... drip...

That was what today’s 6-4 Cubs win over the Royals felt like, after the Cubs zoomed out to a 6-1 lead after four innings. KC runs scored off just about every Cubs reliever until Adbert Alzolay finally put a stop to that in the ninth inning with his 17th save.

So let’s go back to the beginning, when Cubs were hitting baseballs all over the yard. In the bottom of the first, Nico Hoerner reached on an error (after a review showed he was clearly safe) with one out. One out later, Cody Bellinger deposited a baseball into the bleachers [VIDEO].

The Royals scored a run on a single and double in the second before Justin Steele induced three ground outs to end the inning.

The Cubs then extended the lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the inning. Jeimer Candelario led off with a triple and scored on this sac fly by Seiya Suzuki [VIDEO].

Bellinger did it again in the third, his 20th homer of the year [VIDEO].

That’s more home runs than Bellinger hit all of last year, in about 170 fewer plate appearances.

The fourth inning featured two more Cubs crossing the plate. Suzuki led off with an infield dribbler for a hit and Yan Gomes walked. One out later, Hoerner beat out an infield hit to load the bases and Ian Happ singled in run number five [VIDEO].

The bases remained loaded after the single, and Bellinger posted his fourth RBI of the game with this sac fly [VIDEO].

It’s 6-1. Steele is cruising. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty. Right after Bellinger’s sac fly, Dansby Swanson walked.

That was the last Cubs baserunner. Thirteen straight Cubs went down after that, and honestly we are not talking about the top relievers in the league doing this, one of them was making just his second MLB appearance. The Cubs simply have to do better against guys like this. This game should have been put away in the middle innings and Cubs hitters just couldn’t get the job done.

Steele was touched up for one more run in the sixth, but struck out old friend Matt Duffy to end that inning. He threw 99 pitches (72 strikes), allowed just the two runs, didn’t walk anyone and struck out seven. That’s a really good outing.

And then Cubs relievers started giving the lead back. Julian Merryweather — I know you have heard this before — got himself in trouble in the seventh with a pair of walks, and then Bobby Witt Jr.’s RBI single made it 6-3.

In the eighth, Michael Fulmer allowed a leadoff single and then retired the next two hitters, although he also wild-pitched the runner to second. The Royals sent up LH-hitting pinch-hitter Kyle Isbel, so David Ross summoned the guy who’s supposed to be the “lefty specialist” even though he’s not lefthanded, Mark Leiter Jr.

Leiter allowed an RBI double to Isbel and it’s 6-4. He finished off the inning with a strikeout but now it’s getting a bit too close.

The Cubs finished that stretch of 13 straight hitters going down by being retired in order in the eighth, and now it’s up to Alzolay, who has come as age as a closer. How do I know this? Because now he has a fancy entry video. Don’t think any Cubs closer has had that since Craig Kimbrel.

Anyway, Alzolay allowed a one-out single and then struck out Witt.

Here’s the final out [VIDEO].

A win is a win and that’s all good, but sheesh, the Cubs should have been able to pile on many more than the six runs they scored.

The Brewers just finished their second straight win over the Rangers, so the Cubs remain three games behind them. The Reds and Blue Jays are just getting started. The Marlins, with whom the Cubs are competing for a wild card spot, lost their first game this afternoon to the Dodgers; they’ll play another one this evening as L.A. and San Diego area teams had their Sunday games moved up in anticipation of a rare tropical storm in southern California.

The Cubs will go for the series win Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Kyle Hendricks will take the mound for the Cubs (and, I assume, will be caught by Miguel Amaya). Jordan Lyles will start for the Royals. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.