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