Cubs

Kris Bryant, Jon Lester lead Cubs past Astros

Kris Bryant, Jon Lester lead Cubs past Astros

HOUSTON (AP) Kris Bryant hit a two-run homer, Jon Lester threw seven scoreless innings and Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman completed the shutout to give the Chicago Cubs a 2-0 win over the Houston Astros on Friday night.

It was Bryant's first career game against the team that passed on him with the first pick in the 2013 draft to take starter Mark Appel, who was traded to Philadelphia this offseason before ever playing in the majors.

Bryant, taken second in that draft, gave Houston an up-close look at what could have been when he smacked his 37th homer off Joe Musgrove (2-4) to the seats in left field to put the Cubs up 2-0 in the fifth inning.

Lester (16-4) allowed seven hits and struck out seven for his seventh straight win. He hasn't lost since July 3, hasn't allowed a run in three of those starts and gave up just one run in four others in that span.

Rondon took over for the eighth and struck out two before Aroldis Chapman struck out one in a perfect ninth for his 13th save.

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The victory improved the Cubs to an MLB-best 90-50, after they won 97 games last year to give them consecutive 90-win seasons for the first time since doing it in three straight years from 1928-1930.

The Astros had trouble stringing hits together against Lester, and didn't have more than one in an inning until the seventh when Yulieski Gurriel singled with one out and Marwin Gonzalez got another single with two outs. But Lester struck out Colby Rasmus looking to end the threat.

Musgrove allowed three hits and two runs with five strikeouts in six innings for his fourth loss in five starts.

Dexter Fowler snapped an 0-for-19 skid with a leadoff triple. But Musgrove didn't allow another hit until Bryant's homer with two outs in the fifth.

Alex Bregman singled for Houston with no outs in the fourth inning and stole second base. But he was thrown out trying to swipe third, too, and the Astros lost a scoring opportunity.

Brandon Morrow sidelined with upper chest strain, no timetable for return

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USA TODAY

Brandon Morrow sidelined with upper chest strain, no timetable for return

Brandon Morrow’s comeback attempt has hit a bump in the road.

Morrow, the Cubs reliever and former closer, has what the club is calling a “mild right upper chest strain,” according to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Bastian added Morrow felt the strain in his last bullpen session and there is no clear timeline for his return.

The strain is the latest ailment to sideline the oft-injured Morrow, who hasn't pitched since July 2018 due to a series of arm troubles. The 35-year-old has undergone two elbow surgeries since then (November 2018, September 2019) before becoming a free agent this winter. He rejoined the Cubs on a minor-league deal.

Morrow entered camp optimistic the latest procedure did the trick to get his elbow healthy. The Cubs have been easing him into action — the right-hander is throwing one bullpen every four days. Morrow said earlier this month he’s experienced some aches and pains but attributed those to being part of the rehab process.

Morrow is listed as day-to-day, according to Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune. But considering his injury history — and the fact he was already unlikely to crack the Opening Day roster —  the Cubs will proceed with extreme caution. There's no need to expedite his return, mild strain or not.

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David Ross has flu, won't manage Saturday's spring training opener

David Ross has flu, won't manage Saturday's spring training opener

David Ross' spring training managerial debut will have to wait until Sunday, at least.

The Cubs' first-year skipper has the flu and will miss Saturday's game against the Oakland A's. Bench coach Andy Green will be the acting manager in his place.

Saturday isn't going as planned for the North Siders. Besides Ross' absence, inclement weather in Arizona forced the club to push back first pitch from 2:10 p.m. CT to 7:10 p.m.

Weather permitting, here's the lineup the Cubs are rolling out tonight against Oakland:

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