Cubs back in NL wild-card spot after 6-2 win vs. Blue Jays

The offense struck early in the Cubs’ victory Friday.

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Chicago Cubs’ Nico Hoerner runs the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, in Toronto.

Chicago Cubs’ Nico Hoerner runs the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, in Toronto.

AP Photos

TORONTO — Ready to pounce at the plate after their first day off in more than two weeks, the Cubs scored early in their 6-2 victory Friday over the Blue Jays.

“A great start for us against a good pitcher,” second baseman Nico Hoerner said. “Solid contact throughout the game for us. And it felt really good.”

Hitting in the No. 2 slot, Hoerner gave the Cubs an early lead with a solo homer off Jays starter Jose Berrios. Ian Happ followed with a line-drive single into right field. Then Cody Bellinger launched a two-run homer into the Cubs’ bullpen beyond the right-field wall.

They tacked on three more runs in the fourth inning, this time without the long ball. The bottom half of the order started the rally this time. After Dansby Swanson reached on an error, Jeimer Candelario and Seiya Suzuki had back-to-back hits. Suzuki’s double down the left-field line bounced into the corner and drove in two runs. The lineup turned over, and Mike Tauchman contributed an RBI single.

With their win and the Marlins’ loss to the Yankees, the Cubs climbed back up into the last National League wild-card spot.

“Obviously we wanted to win the series in New York,” Hoerner said of the three-game set against the Mets this week that the Cubs lost 2-1. “We want to win all of them. But I feel like we took it just for what it was. We didn’t win a series, and then you move on to the next one. And that’s really all there is. And we’ve got a pretty mature group for that.

“I feel like we’re pretty well-equipped for whatever the next month and a half, two months of the regular season has in [store for us], just in what we experienced with the deadline, having some games that felt like they were a little turned up as far as urgency and intensity.”

This second half has stood in contrast to the last couple of years, when the Cubs traded away major-league talent at the deadline. Out of a playoff race, development also played into on-field decisions.

“I don’t ever make out a lineup to not win; hopefully that’s obvious,” manager David Ross said before the game. “Right now, there’s guys that are going to lack some at-bats and lack some innings in moments, and you ride the guys that are doing well.”

That has also meant some tough conversations. Veteran Tucker Barnhart hasn’t caught a whole game since Aug. 1. Until Friday, Suzuki hadn’t been starting against right-handers. Left-hander Drew Smyly moved to the bullpen when the Cubs had the days off to move around their rotation. And during the Cubs’ stretch of 16 straight games, their high-leverage relievers took on heavy workloads.

“Just trying to put the right winning formula out on the field every single day,” Ross said.

“There’s no mandates of, this guy has got to play or that guy has got to play. It’s like, let’s go win baseball games. So that’s a refreshing time to be in with this push. Those guys put themselves in that position and earned that. It’s nice to be a part of that.”

Stroman throws bullpen session

Right-hander Marcus Stroman (right hip inflammation) threw a bullpen session before the game.

Pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said this week that they planned to make Friday’s session more start-like with a heavier workload than Stroman’s bullpen session earlier in the week.

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