Orioles beat Cubs 7-1, extend winning streak to 10 games

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CHICAGO – Anthony Santander hit a two-run double to spark Baltimore’s three-run first inning, Spenser Watkins and four relievers scattered six hits and the Orioles extended their winning streak to 10 games with a 7-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night.

It’s the Orioles’ longest winning streak in a single season since they won 13 in a row from Sept. 7-22, 1999.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the only team with a longer current drought without a double-digit win streak in a season is Miami, which has never had one.

With the victory, the Orioles (45-44) also went over the .500 mark for the first time since April 8, 2021, when they were 4-3. Baltimore finished off the game to chants of “Let’s Go O’s!” at Wrigley Field, where the Orioles were playing their first series since 2014.

“We feel every bit of Birdland, especially here,” Watkins said. “You have `O’ chants going on in Wrigley Field. That’s pretty cool.”

The Cubs lost their sixth consecutive game, their longest skid since dropping 10 straight games June 4-16.

Watkins (3-1) limited the Cubs to four hits in five-plus innings. Watkins is 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA in his last four starts since being recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on June 25. He allowed a single to Ian Happ to start the sixth and was lifted in favor of Dillion Tate.

“Spenser was fantastic,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “He set the tone. He put zeroes up early.”

Tate, Cionel Perez, Joey Krehbiel and Bryan Baker combined to allow two hits the rest of the way.

“We’re pitching with confidence,” Hyde said. “We’re aggressive. We’re pitching with emotion. I think our pitching has really turned the corner.”

Meanwhile, Cubs starter Justin Steele (3-6) – pitching on eight days rest after his girlfriend gave birth Monday to the couple’s first child – retired the final 11 batters he faced over six innings.

“The best of my life,” Steele said of the last few days. “Becoming a dad was just so special. Bawled my eyes out as soon as it happened. We decided on the name, Beau. Literally so ready to get back home to him right now and just love on him.”

But the damage was done in the first two innings. Three of the first four batters reached base, prompting pitching coach Tommy Hottovy to make a mound visit after Santander’s double. But Austin Hays followed with a single, and Santander scored after left fielder Happ misplayed the hit.

The Orioles extended their lead in the second when Trey Mancini hit a double to score Rougned Odor and Cedric Mullins, who was initially ruled to have beaten the relay throw from shortstop Nico Hoerner to catcher Willson Contreras. But a replay overturned the safe call on Mullins, and Steele got Ryan Mountcastle to ground to short to end the inning.

The Cubs scored their lone run off Watkins in the fifth when Christopher Morel tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Rafael Ortega.

The Orioles added three runs with two outs in the eighth on a double by Adley Rutschman, a single by Odor and a balk by reliever Daniel Norris.

HENDRICKS OUT INDEFINITELY

Cubs ace Kyle Hendricks will need at least two or three weeks before he can consider playing catch, manager David Ross said. Hendricks hasn’t pitched since July 5, when he threw only three innings at Milwaukee because of a right shoulder strain.

Hendricks, 32, missed a start in early June because of shoulder fatigue but still leads the team with 84 1/3 innings pitched.

HAPP HUMBLED BY EPSTEIN TEXT

Happ was moved by a congratulatory text message on his All-Star selection from Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ former president of baseball operations who oversaw his selection as the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft.

“And I thanked him for giving me the chance here and to be able to do it in front of these fans and this city,” Happ said of Epstein, now a consultant with Major League Baseball.

Happ rebounded from a miserable 2021 season, when he had a slash line of .175/.284/.318 on Aug. 11.

“He’s becoming an all-around player, and I don’t know I could have said that last year,” Ross said.

RETURN OF THE STOLEN BASE

Jorge Mateo (22) and Mullins (18) have accounted for 40 of the Orioles’ 55 stolen bases, and Hyde will continue to give them the green light.

“Those two guys are such elite base stealers, it’s weapon for us, and a weapon for them,” Hyde said. “I still think it’s an important part of the game.”

MOVES

Cubs: Norris was activated from the 15-day injured list. RHP Matt Swarmer was optioned to Triple-A Iowa.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cubs: INF Nick Madrigal (left groin strain) will spend the rest of the week building strength and volume with the training staff in Chicago. … RHP Ethan Roberts underwent Tommy John surgery in Arlington, Texas.

UP NEXT

The Orioles haven’t named a starter for Friday’s series opener against the Rays.

The Cubs will start RHP Keegan Thompson in Thursday’s series opener against the Mets. Thompson allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings Friday in a 4-3 loss to the Dodgers.

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.