Maybe it's another false alarm, but could Cubs' win against Orioles propel them out of their rut?

The Cubs beat the Orioles 9-2 in their series opener Tuesday.

SHARE Maybe it's another false alarm, but could Cubs' win against Orioles propel them out of their rut?
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Chicago Cubs’ Michael Busch celebrates his home run as he rounds the bases during the first inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Tuesday, July 9, 2024, in Baltimore.

Nick Wass/AP Photos

BALTIMORE — It’s difficult in the moment to pinpoint the end of a rut.

‘‘It’s always a story we tell afterwards,’’ Cubs manager Craig Counsell said. ‘‘Because it’s never one thing. You don’t win baseball games with one thing; it’s a lot of people that contribute to it.’’

In a down spell that has lasted for more than two months, there has been plenty of false hope. Case in point: Those comments from Counsell were from early June. The Cubs had plenty more losing to do.

Four victories in their last five games might be another blip on the radar, especially when two of those came against the Angels, who have had a worse season than the Cubs. But two came against the two best teams in baseball: the Phillies on Thursday and the Orioles on Tuesday.

The Cubs’ 9-2 victory against the Orioles featured home runs from Ian Happ and Michael Busch, who have been their best hitters this season overall and specifically in recent weeks. Maybe the two getting hot can lift the team out of its rut, the way Busch carried the Cubs early in the season or Cody Bellinger powered their midseason comeback last year.

‘‘It makes it easier on the whole offense,’’ Happ said of that kind of boost from one or two hitters. ‘‘Just having runners on, guys driving in runs and having plenty of chances to do it. Today was a perfect example of that.’’

Whether it will be too little, too late as the calendar speeds toward the trade deadline July 30 remains to be seen. But if the Cubs are going to make president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer consider adding to the team, rather than trading away major-league talent, they have to keep winning in bunches.

Even with the victory, they were five games out of the last National League wild-card spot at the time of the final play.

While every batter in the starting lineup had a hit except shortstop Dansby Swanson, who contributed an RBI, Happ (2-for-4 with three RBI) and Busch (4-for-6) stole the spotlight.

‘‘We did a nice job early in the game just pushing some runs across,’’ Counsell said. ‘‘But the home runs are easy offense.’’

Busch extended his on-base streak to 27 starts when he drove the first pitch he saw over the right-field fence in the first inning.

‘‘Huge,’’ Happ said. ‘‘Doing it against righties, doing it against lefties. . . . He’s been great. He’s walked, he’s gotten his hits, he’s slugged, he’s done it all.’’

With two outs in the fourth, Happ drove in Nico Hoerner and Busch with a homer that landed on Eutaw Street. It was only the second homer to Eutaw Street by a visiting player this season, and it was Happ’s third three-run homer in less than a week.

‘‘He’s driving it around, he’s getting on base, he’s having really good at-bats,’’ Busch said. ‘‘Even when he’s getting out, he’s having really good at-bats. It takes a toll on the pitcher, and it provides a little momentum for our lineup.’’

The Cubs’ offensive effort made the most of right-hander Jameson Taillon’s start. He held the Orioles, the best offense in the American League, to two runs and four hits in six innings. It was Taillon’s sixth consecutive quality start.

The comfortable lead going into the ninth gave right-hander Hunter Bigge a soft landing place for his major-league debut. He retired the side in order and touched 100 mph. A section full of his friends and family cheered with every strike.

‘‘We’re pitching well, [and] we’re hitting at the same time,’’ Taillon said when he was asked whether it felt as though the Cubs were building momentum. ‘‘We’re playing defense, making big plays. It’s nice when all of it lines up together.

‘‘I feel like we’ve been kind of chasing each other. We won’t pitch, we’ll hit; we won’t hit, we’ll pitch. It’s just nice when it all lines up. Hopefully we can just stay right there.’’

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