Imanaga delivers again for Cubs in road win over Mariners

SEATTLE (AP) — So far this season, whenever Shota Imanaga takes the mound, the Chicago Cubs win.

Imanaga finally allowed a run — it was unearned — Saturday night in Seattle, but that was it over 5 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, Michael Busch homered in his third straight game, and the Cubs beat the Mariners, 4-1, as they crossed the midway point of their nine-game, three-city trip out West.

Imanaga, a rookie left-hander from Japan, has had a sparkling start to his big-league career. The Cubs have won all three of his starts, and he’s allowed just the one unearned run over 15 1/3 innings for a perfect ERA of 0.00.

With four strikeouts and two walks Saturday, Imanaga (2-0) has struck out 16 and walked two over his first three career starts.

He was certainly helped Saturday by some timely defense from third baseman Christopher Morel in the sixth inning to keep the Cubs in front.

Morel made consecutive outstanding plays with runners in scoring position, first diving to stop Mitch Garver’s hard grounder from getting down the left-field line and then leaping to snag Dylan Moore’s line drive.

“That changes the game right there. They may have the lead if that ball gets into the corner,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said of the first play Morel made. “That was a huge play. He made some really nice plays tonight.

“Overall, it was definitely a really big defensive game for Christopher.”

The two plays by Morel helped get Chicago out of trouble after Imanaga walked the first two batters in the sixth, his first walks this season.

“I want to thank him,” Imanaga said through a translator. “With his defense, we were able to win. So I want to congratulate him and thank him on that.

Seattle got to Imanaga in the second inning after Mitch Haniger reached on an error by Busch at first base. Haniger scored on Luis Urías’ two-out double, but Imanaga stranded runners at second and third by striking out Seby Zavala.

Imanaga said Seattle’s game plan was to lay off his splitter down in the zone, which made spotting his fastball for a strike more important. Imanaga threw 61 fastballs among his 90 pitches.

“The first two games that I pitched, my off-speeds felt good, as well as my fastball,” Imanaga said. “Today, I didn’t really have the changeup, and then as the game went on, my fastball command, the quality started to go down.

“So just kind of learning, how do I need to make an adjustment? And moving from there.”

Continue road trip

Seiya Suzuki and Miguel Amaya also hit solo home runs for the Cubs, who improved to 8-6 overall and 2-3 on their long road trip.

The Cubs play at Seattle again at 3:10 p.m. Sunday before concluding the trip against the Diamondbacks in Arizona from Monday through Wednesday.

On Saturday, Mark Leiter Jr., Yency Almonte, Hector Neris and Adbert Alzolay permitted just two baserunners in 3 2/3 innings of relief. Alzolay earned his second save.

Busch, meanwhile, ran his home run streak to three games by hitting a solo shot off reliever Tyson Miller in the seventh.

“He’s swinging it really good right now, and he’s driving it, most importantly,” Counsell said.

Suzuki’s homer came on the first pitch he saw from Seattle starter Emerson Hancock (1-2) with two outs in the third. Amaya homered off reliever Austin Voth in the eighth.

Trainer’s room

Cubs: RHP Jameson Taillon (back) threw 3 2/3 innings and 68 pitches on Friday in a rehab outing with Triple-A Iowa. His next start is expected to come with the Cubs, Counsell said. Taillon plans to meet the team in Arizona on Monday, although it’s unclear when he will slot back into the rotation.

Up next

Cubs: RHP Javier Assad (1-0, 1.64 ERA) allowed two runs over five innings in his last start against San Diego. He threw six shutout innings in his first start of the season.

Mariners: RHP Luis Castillo (0-3, 6.89) has allowed four earned runs in each of his first three starts. Castillo has yet to finish six innings and has lost three straight decisions for the first time since last June.

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