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Dusty Puckett hit another home run and struck out four batters in just over two innings of work, but it was Jordan Adams who came through in the clutch for the Cubs to get the win.
After building a five-run lead entering the sixth inning, the Cubs held off the charging Reds.
With only one out away and men on second and third and the tying run at bat, Adams came in relief and got two consecutive outs to give the Cubs their eighth win of the season.
“My stomach was tight, my chest was tight and I couldn’t sit still,” said Cubs manager Scott Boone. “But we pulled it out so I feel great.”
On a hot, Sunday afternoon, the Cubs led from start to finish, but that’s not to say it was easy going.
The Cubs got two runs on the board in the opening frame, including two steals from starting pitcher Dusty Puckett after being walked and an RBI from Dylan Boone.
The Reds, as they would do all game, had an answer.
Daniel Whalen led off for the Reds with a single. Upon reaching first the speedy Whalen faked back and forth on the base enticing a throw over to keep him at first. Finally, Whalen found his spot, kicked it into high gear and stole second base.
If there was ever an antithesis of Whalen’s energy on the base paths it was Puckett on the mound. Standing calm and at ease, Puckett struck out the next two batters before Whalen stole third base to move closer to the Reds first run.
When the throw from the Cubs catcher to third base got away, Whalen waltzed home to bring the score to 2-1.
After a scoreless second inning for both teams, Puckett showed his prowess at the plate with a lead off triple. A few pitches later Puckett then took off and stole home to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead.
Three batters later, Zach Miller hit a double to right field plating Dylan Boone. Ryan Clark then hit an RBI single to bring home Caleb Boyles from third base.
The play of the game belonged to Whalen, who was the starting pitcher for the Reds. Isaiah Caldwell of the Cubs hit a bullet straight back at Whalen who stuck his glove up and made the catch in a split second.
The Cubs would score one more run in the inning to make it 6-1 entering the bottom half of the third.
After retiring the first batter, Puckett was moved from the pitcher’s mound to shortstop, where Miller took over.
“I felt confident with our other pitchers, putting Dusty back at shortstop, that we could pull this game out,” Boone said. “I wanted to save him for other games.”
After walking the first batter, and getting the second batter out, Miller pitched one over the middle that Eric Welsh connected with for an inside the park home run to bring the score to 6-3 through three innings.
In the fourth inning, Puckett answered the Reds’ bell once more.
Puckett stepped up to the plate, later admitting he was bit nervous, with a runner on first base.
After waiting on a couple pitches, Puckett blasted a ball over the fence in left-centerfield for his ninth home run of the season and gave the Cubs an 8-3 lead.
“He’s awesome,” Boone said. “That’s the best thing I can say about Dusty. Pretty much, when he gets up to bat you know he’s going to get on base. You know he’s going to score. I have complete confidence in him. He makes me look like a good coach.”
In the bottom of the sixth inning, with the score still at 8-3, the Reds made their final push.
Ty Harley opened the frame with a single. Taylor Hughes then executed a sacrifice bunt to advance Harley to second base with one out.
Caldwell then hit a single moving Harley to third base, followed by a double from Whalen that brought home Harley and Caldwell and the Reds’ deficit was down to three.
Boone then handed the ball over to Adams to close out the game. Adams’ first pitch got away though, and plunked the Reds’ batter in the back. After a wild pitch advanced both base runners to second and third base with still only one out on the board, tensions were running high.
Adams remained composed however, and got the final two outs, a pop up to Puckett in the infield, and a strikeout, to give the Cubs the 8-5 victory.
Boone said while his heart was thumping with the situation, he had confidence in Adams, a pitcher he called one of the best in the league.
“I had complete confidence in Jordan that he would get us out of that inning, and he did,” Boone said. “He’s done it before.”
E-mail Metz Camfield at firstname.lastname@example.org.