HOUSTON -- The Cubs and Astros, two teams expected to be among the top offenses this year, gave a sneak preview of what may be to come with a high-scoring affair Thursday night at Minute Maid Park. The Astros edged the Cubs, 8-6, taking the first of a two-game exhibition set that will mark the final tuneup for both teams.
Houston right-hander Lance McCullers struck out the side in the first inning, but he struggled for the next two. The Cubs tagged him for three runs on four hits in a second highlighted by a leadoff triple by Benjamin Zobrist and RBIs by Addison Russell and Javier Baez.
"The good thing about tonight is it doesn't count," McCullers said. "That's one positive. My fastball command was pretty good today. I struggled with my breaking ball, I struggled with my changeup. To be able to see good life on my heater, being able to put it in and out. ... The breaking ball wasn't really working, The changeup, I didn't have a lot of confidence in it. That's on me, I'll figure it out. I"ve got until Tuesday."
The Astros answered in the bottom of the inning behind a two-run homer by Josh Reddick, his first long ball of the spring, off Cubs lefty Brett Anderson.
"The homer Reddick hit was a pitch that I probably could've hit out -- it was right on his barrel," said Anderson, who graded his stuff a "D-minus."
"The defense made some really good plays behind me and I was able to get my pitch count up and get through five [innings]," Anderson said. "If this was a regular-season game, it would've given us a chance to win. There were mostly positives going forward, knowing my stuff will be better, can be better, and the fact that I got through it and my body feels good and my arm feels good and I'll get ready for St. Louis and Milwaukee."
The third frame produced home runs from each team -- Russell's two-run shot into the Crawford Boxes off McCullers, and an opposite-field homer by Jose Altuve off Anderson, narrowing the Cubs' advantage to 5-3.
Another offensive burst for the Astros occurred in the sixth. Evan Gattis' two-run double off Hector Rondon tied the game at 6, and Alex Bregman's base hit off Jhondaniel Medina gave Houston its first lead. That lead increased by one when a passed ball by Kyle Schwarber allowed the eighth Astros run to score.
Schwarber started in left field but switched to catcher in the sixth, the first time he's done so in a Major League game since he tore two ligaments in his left knee last April 7. Schwarber, considered the third catcher on the Cubs' depth chart, did catch four innings in a Minor League game last Friday.
Cubs Up Next: The Cubs wrap up the exhibition season Friday at 1:10 p.m. CT when Kyle Hendricks faces the Astros in his final preseason start, free on MLB.TV. The Major League ERA leader last season, Hendricks had not walked a batter until his last outing in Las Vegas, when he walked four. He finished Cactus League play with 15 strikeouts over 16 2/3 innings.
Astros Up Next: The Astros wrap up their spring season Friday, free on MLB.TV against the Cubs at Minute Maid Park. Right-hander Joe Musgrove, who compiled a 2.45 ERA throughout the exhibition season to earn a spot in the rotation, will take the mound for the Astros.
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