Cubs win laugher vs. Cardinals to get needed series victory

Cody Bellinger hit a two-run home run in the first inning to get things started, and the Cubs added five runs in the third.

SHARE Cubs win laugher vs. Cardinals to get needed series victory
Fans cheer Cubs starting pitcher Jameson Taillon as he leaves the field.

Fans cheer Cubs starting pitcher Jameson Taillon as he leaves the field.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

The sort of long winning streak the Cubs need to put together to reroute their direction at the trade deadline requires winning games in different ways.

As an example, the Cubs entered Sunday with relievers Adbert Alzolay, Julian Merryweather, Mark Leiter Jr. and Michael Fulmer all having pitched each of the previous two days, with Alzolay securing a pair of saves. The sort of back-and-forth battles the Cubs won Friday and Saturday could have pushed their high-leverage arms to their limits Sunday.

But in a 7-2 triumph against the Cardinals that secured a series victory, the Cubs remedied all that by blowing their scuffling National League Central rivals out of the water early.

‘‘That was a huge series for us, especially to drop the first one and come back and win three,’’ said first baseman Trey Mancini, who had an RBI double in the Cubs’ five-run third inning. ‘‘A very important time of year right now with the deadline coming up. As a player, obviously, you don’t want to see any of your teammates get traded and you want to keep everyone together. Hopefully we can keep playing well.’’

After manager David Ross spent the morning discussing the need to be more ‘‘detail-oriented’’ and opportunistic in building more comfortable margins for the bullpen, he saw his team bludgeon Cardinals starter Jordan Montgomery for every mistake.

A two-out fielding error by Montgomery on a comebacker to the mound by Ian Happ in the first was followed by red-hot Cody Bellinger whacking his 14th home run into the basket in center. After Montgomery issued a pair of walks in the third, he induced a bases-loaded sacrifice fly from Bellinger to suggest a reasonable escape was possible. But consecutive run-scoring hits from Dansby Swanson, Yan Gomes and Mancini with two outs gave the Cubs a 7-0 lead.

Swanson had two of the Cubs’ seven hits and has four in two games since returning from a heel injury.

‘‘We have the talent,’’ Bellinger said. ‘‘We’ve got some guys coming back, and it just adds some depth.’’

With a seven-run lead, Ross was given ample room to try to wring as many innings as possible from starter Jameson Taillon. For the vast majority of Taillon’s season-high 109 pitches, that effort was rewarded with his third encouraging outing in a row.

Bedeviled by left-handers all season, Taillon caught a break with lefty slugger Nolan Gorman sitting Sunday with reported back stiffness. While left-handed Alec Burleson and All-Star Nolan Arenado combined for five hits, Taillon kept their teammates at bay with cutters and sweepers, striking out six and walking one.

Taillon fell an out short of six innings after three consecutive hits with two outs ended the shutout effort. That began a wave of typically lower-leverage Cubs relievers landing the plane with some margin for error.

‘‘We knew [Taillon] was going to have to give us some innings today,’’ Ross said. ‘‘The offensive production really helps on days like that. It takes some of the pressure off from a bullpen standpoint.’’

Michael Rucker overcame a walk to strand the bases loaded in the sixth, Anthony Kay got four outs to take the game into the eighth and Javier Assad handled the final 1 2/3 innings three days after throwing 56 pitches.

Maybe those aren’t the kind of names that come to mind when thinking about how the Cubs might power their way back into the NL playoff chase after ending the weekend 5½ games out of a wild-card spot. But to turn a humble three-game winning streak into something longer, with six more games against losing teams coming up, they’ll need everyone.

‘‘We can obviously put a lot of weight into the games over the next week,’’ Taillon said. ‘‘But we’ve also had months to show who we are. You don’t want to overcook these games. But I do feel like we’re playing well right now.’’

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