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Offense erupts to back Villanueva's solid start

Kalish leads charge with three RBIs on two extra-base hits

CHICAGO -- Carlos Villanueva knew it would be a good day Sunday because the cable guy showed up at his apartment that morning and got his connection to work.

Villanueva's good fortune continued as the Cubs' scored as many runs in two innings as they had in their five previous games, beating the Phillies, 8-3, to avoid being swept in the opening series.

"Offense is always contagious," said Ryan Kalish, who drove in three runs. "I know we haven't gotten off to the best start, but everyone is real close."

Kalish hit an RBI triple in a four-run first and added a two-run double in the sixth to back Villanueva, who picked up the win in his first start of the season and continued a nice trend for the Chicago starters, who now have a 1.93 ERA (eight runs over 37 1/3 innings) in the first six games.

This was Villanueva's third appearance after pitching in relief twice last week against the Pirates in extra-inning games. He took the loss in both, and manager Rick Renteria felt he had to give the right-hander a little pep talk.

"He really helped us out in a pinch in Pittsburgh," Renteria said. "I know that after the second game in Pittsburgh, I said, 'Don't worry about the outcome there, we really needed your help and you gave it to us.'"

"It shouldn't take him telling me that," Villanueva said. "It's definitely not easy and I wasn't happy [losing the games]. ... If that would've happened to me five, six years ago, I don't know how I would've handled it, and definitely different than I did.

"You have to forget about it. You want to do whatever you can to help the boys out and keep everybody happy. Today we took a good step toward that, and we have to keep going."

Villanueva had lots of "traffic" to deal with in the fourth and fifth. The Phillies loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, getting an assist when Starlin Castro made an error on a potential double-play ball. But Cody Asche hit a comebacker to Villanueva, who threw home for the force.

The Phillies had runners at second and third in the fifth, and scored a run on Chase Utley's groundout. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg thought Utley was safe at first and challenged the call, but after review, the first at Wrigley Field, umpire CB Bucknor's call was confirmed. Ryan Howard then hit a liner to Emilio Bonifacio, who had shifted to shallow right, and he grabbed it with a perfectly timed leap and got the force at second.

"That went from a moment of head down to a very excited, 'I can't believe we had somebody play there,'" Villanueva said of Bonifacio's play in the fifth. "The inning before, we make an error, and the next inning, we have somebody there. It's a crazy game. Today it worked for us. Sometimes you're upset at the shift, sometimes nobody complains."

Villanueva took steps to assure Castro not to worry about his error.

"You have a choice there," Villanueva said. "You can decide to get upset and let it rattle you, or you pick him up. I know he's not trying to make an error. I've talked a lot to Starlin, and he's worked hard to improve his defense. The best thing I can do there is pick him up and make sure he understands I'm not upset. Hopefully, he gets another one to make him feel better."

Castro's message to Villanueva?

"'Give me another ground ball that I can make a double play on,'" Castro said. "I tried to make that play. If I don't make it, I have eight more guys to pick me up. That's why when other guys make errors, I'm there to pick them up, too."

Renteria gave Villanueva a bear hug in the dugout after the fifth.

"He's a big hugger," Villanueva said of the rookie manager. "He worked his magic on me."

The right-hander tried to talk Renteria into letting him go out for another inning, but that was it.

The Cubs began the day as the only Major League team to not score more than one run in an inning. They corrected that in the first. Castro was in the No. 6 spot in hopes of having him in position to drive in runs, and it worked. Bonifacio walked to lead off the first and scored on Kalish's triple to right-center. Phillies starter A.J. Burnett walked Anthony Rizzo, and Nate Schierholtz followed with a sacrifice fly. Luis Valbuena walked to set up Castro's RBI double and open a 3-0 lead. Ryan Sweeney added a sacrifice fly.

"[Renteria] told me, 'I put you there because you have great numbers against Burnett,'" Castro said. "I'm good. Whatever spot he tries to put me in where he thinks I can do a good job, I'm on it."

Center fielder Ben Revere couldn't get his glove on Sweeney's ball in the sixth, and the error led to four unearned runs. Bonifacio hit an RBI single, Kalish followed with his two-run double, and Rizzo added an RBI single for an 8-1 lead.

The Phillies made it interesting in the ninth against Jose Veras, adding two runs. Renteria said they wanted the closer to get some work before Monday's off-day and wasn't concerned about the outing. Pedro Strop got Howard to fly out to Kalish in left to end the game and let Renteria celebrate his first win at Wrigley Field.

"It's awesome," Castro said of the Cubs' offense waking up. "We've been waiting for that for a long time. Today was a really good day."

Just ask Villanueva.

"I knew it would be a good day when the cable guy shows up on Sunday morning," he said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.
Read More: Chicago Cubs, Starlin Castro, Carlos Villanueva, Ryan Kalish, Anthony Rizzo