Bellinger HRs in return, Imanaga pitches into the 8th, and Busch walks it off in the rain at Wrigley in Cubs’ thrilling win

CHICAGO — In a driving rain at Wrigley Field, on a night in which Cody Bellinger returned to the lineup and Shota Imanaga delivered once again in what’s becoming a historic rookie season, Michael Busch led off the bottom of the ninth in a tie game.

He didn’t take long to send the wet fans into a frenzy.

Busch blasted a game-ending home run on the first pitch he saw in the ninth, and the Chicago Cubs rallied to beat the San Diego Padres, 3-2, on Tuesday night after Bellinger went deep in his return from broken ribs and Imanaga pitched into the eighth inning.

The Cubs had trailed 2-1 in the eighth after Jurickson Profar’s two-run homer to center ended Imanaga’s shutout bid and his night. But the Cubs scratched out a run in the bottom of the eighth to tie it before Busch drove the first pitch he saw in the ninth from Padres reliever Enyel De Los Santos 427 feet, deep into the bleachers in right-center.

It was the first career game-ending homer and seventh of the season for Busch, acquired in an offseason trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He got mobbed by his teammates as he crossed the plate with the winning run Tuesday.

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“It was pretty special,” Busch said. “It all happened so fast. I was just thinking about that 10, 15 minutes ago — I don’t think I’d ever had a walk-off home run in my life.

“It was pretty cool.”

The Cubs evened up the three-game series after the Padres won Monday night, 6-3. The teams conclude the series Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

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After a day off Thursday, the Cubs hit the road for three games in Pittsburgh over the weekend and three games in Atlanta next week.

They’re still tied with the Milwaukee Brewers, who had their own dramatic last at-bat win in Kansas City on Tuesday night, for first place in the early National League Central standings.

Bellinger back

One night after Cubs ace left-hander Justin Steele made his return to the mound from injury, Bellinger had three hits after missing two weeks with broken ribs. He gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead when he connected on a drive out to right-center on a 3-2 pitch to lead off the fourth against Padres starter Randy Vásquez.

“I just wanted to make sure my swing was in a good spot,” Bellinger said. “It’s nice to see some results today.”

Bellinger had the crowd cheering after the homer, his sixth of the season.

Bellinger fractured two ribs on his right side when he ran into the center field wall at Wrigley Field trying to make a play against the Houston Astros on April 23. The 2019 NL MVP with the Dodgers had been heating up prior to the injury, going 10-for-30 with three homers and seven RBI during an eight-game hitting streak.

Imanaga impressive again

Imanaga, meanwhile, was in line to win his fifth straight start before the Padres broke through in the eighth.

The rookie lefty from Japan came out to pitch the inning after needing 93 pitches get through seven scoreless frames.

But Imanaga gave up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Luis Arraez before Profar chased him with a two-run drive that just cleared the left-field wall. Cubs starters had gone four straight games without allowing a run, the first time in franchise history that happened in the same season, according to team historian Ed Hartig.

Despite the tough ending, it was another stellar start for Imanaga, who allowed two runs and seven hits, struck out eight and walked one. His ERA actually rose, from 0.78 to 1.08, in his seventh major-league start, thanks to the homer by Profar, who pulled about a knee-high splitter toward the outside half of the plate just beyond the wall.

Imanaga pitched out of a first-and-second jam in the sixth. He struck out Manny Machado and Bogaerts, then smacked his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the field while the crowd roared.

“Recently, it’s been hard for me to get up in the morning, so I think if I switch the fans cheering to my alarm, I think I’ll get up fast,” Imanaga said through an interpreter.

Key defensive play

After Yency Almonte replaced Imanaga, the Padres had a man on third with two outs in the eighth when Cubs second baseman Nico Hoerner raced back to make a lunging grab on Xander Bogaerts’ bloop, saving another run.

The Cubs tied it in the bottom half when Mike Tauchman walked leading off against Yuki Matsui, took third on Bellinger’s single and scored on Christopher Morel’s sacrifice fly.

Chicago’s Héctor Neris (2-0) pitched out of a jam in the ninth, when he retired Jackson Merrill on a pop fly with runners on first and second.

Vásquez went 4 1/3 innings, allowing one run and five hits in his third start this season. The right-hander struck out six and walked none after being recalled Sunday from Triple-A El Paso with Joe Musgrove going on the injured list because of right elbow inflammation.

Trainer’s room

Cubs: Manager Craig Counsell said the Cubs planned to have Bellinger serve as the DH on Tuesday and probably Wednesday before deciding whether to play him in the field. … The Cubs placed RHP Daniel Palencia (strained right shoulder) on the 15-day injured list. … OF Seiya Suzuki (strained right oblique) was headed to Iowa to play Wednesday and Thursday and could return this weekend at Pittsburgh, Counsell said.

Up next

Padres RHP Dylan Cease (4-2, 2.55 ERA) makes his first start in Chicago since the White Sox traded him to San Diego, while RHP Hayden Wesneski (2-0, 0.54) gets the ball for the Cubs.

The 28-year-old Cease was one of baseball’s best pitchers in 2022. He struggled last season, and the White Sox dealt him to the Padres in March.

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First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m.

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