Cubs end spring with win, ready to defend title

Until that breakout inning, both offenses were kept in check by sharp starting pitching. Cubs righty Kyle Hendricks held the Astros scoreless through five, scattering two hits and walking one to lower his spring ERA to 1.66.

Young's two-run single Young’s two-run single

CHC@HOU: Young drives in two runs with single

With runners at second and third, Chesny Young singles up the middle to bring home both runners and extend the Cubs’ lead to 4-0 in the 5th

Hendricks won’t pitch again until April 8 in Milwaukee, so he treated Friday’s game as if it were his first start of the season. He went over a scouting report from last year with catcher Miguel Montero and did his same in-season pregame routine.

“I really tried to treat it like my first start, and it felt good,” Hendricks said. “You feel a lot more comfortable taking the mound with an idea of what you’re trying to do instead of just working on your stuff. It was good to have that.”

The Cubs, who open the season Sunday night against the Cardinals, are ready to begin defense of the World Series championship.

“You could see it — everyone was high levels in the breakfast room,” Hendricks said. “There was a lot of yelling and screaming, guys were pumped up. We’re finally to that day. You feel it building up, you feel it coming, you see a light at the end of the tunnel, but now, being the last day, flying to St. Louis, you feel it coming.”

Houston righty Joe Musgrove, whose solid spring earned him a spot in the rotation, did not allow a run over four innings of work. He retired the first eight batters he faced before yielding back-to-back hits to Jon Jay and Kyle Schwarber with two outs in the third, but he struck out Kris Bryant to end the inning.

“I was really pleased with everything today,” Musgrove said. “The slider was sharp. I had good fastball command. I was most pleased with my ability to command the top of the strike zone, which was kind of huge for me. That was the best I’ve felt all spring. I’m glad I’m going into the season feeling like this.”

“He’s very focused, especially for a young player to come up and command the game the way that he does,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more. We wanted him to have four innings. For a while, we thought we were going to have to send him to the bullpen to get more pitches because he was so efficient. I thought he was really sharp.”

Brignac's RBI single Brignac’s RBI single

CHC@HOU: Brignac plates run with single to left

Reid Brignac hits a bouncing ground ball that just gets through the Cubs’ infield, driving in the first Astros run of the game in the 6th

The Astros scored their first runs in the sixth inning as Reid Brignac and pinch-hitter Yulieski Gurriel hit RBI singles.

Gurriel's RBI single Gurriel’s RBI single

CHC@HOU: Gurriel drives in run with single to left

Yulieski Gurriel singles to left field scoring Derek Fisher and cutting the Astros’ deficit in half 4-2 in the bottom of the 6th

Cubs Up Next: After a day off, the World Series-champion Cubs begin defense of their title on Sunday night against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Jon Lester gets the start, his second Opening Day assignment for the Cubs. First pitch is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. CT.

Astros Up Next: When Dallas Keuchel takes the mound for Houston on Monday, he will become the first Astros left-hander to make three consecutive Opening Day starts. Last year, Keuchel logged the Opening Day win against the Yankees in New York, allowing two earned runs on three hits over seven innings.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com and covered the Astros on Friday. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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