If you are too young to have experienced the Cubs in the 1970s, when the team played 20 games at Wrigley Field where both teams scored 10 or more runs, Sunday’s 11-10 Cubs win over the Twins was reminiscent of those days, with the wind howling out and questionable pitching on both sides.
The result was much better than those days, though; the 1970s Cubs went 4-16 in those 20 games. This time, the Cubs hung on in a game they led by eight runs entering the fifth inning and swept the Twins. I mean, seriously, you have to feel a bit sorry for Twins fans. They came in to Wrigley and scored 25 runs in three games... and got swept.
Sorry not sorry.
The Twins scored first off Jon Lester on a solo homer by Jake Cave in the second inning. By the end of that inning, Lester had thrown 49 pitches and was clearly laboring.
Not laboring too much, though, to do this [VIDEO].
That ball: Crushed!
Barrel: Jon Lester (2) [CHC] off Lance Lynn [MIN]: 102.8 mph, 23 degrees (Home Run - 406 ft)— MLBExitVelocity (@MLBExitVelocity) July 1, 2018
406 feet? Well done, Jon, well done, and that ball needed no help from the 16 mile per hour wind howling out toward left field. Yes, I am still in favor of the DH, but I gotta admit: That one was fun. More fun facts about Lester’s blast:
Lester is the oldest #Cubs STARTING pitcher to homer since Greg Maddux (39 years, 57 days) on 6/10/2005https://t.co/65Fuy2x0e8— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 1, 2018
It came with two runners on base and gave the Cubs a 3-1 lead, and they simply did not stop hitting that inning. Ian Happ singled and one out later, Ben Zobrist walked. Three straight doubles and a single by Willson Contreras plated five runs for an 8-1 Cubs lead.
The fun continued in the fourth inning, when three singles produced another run for an eight-run lead. What could possibly go wrong?
Not much right away, though a clearly tiring Lester allowed a pair of two-out hits in the fifth to make it 9-3. The Cubs came right back and made it 10-3 in the bottom of the inning, thanks to Happ. Happ’s 10th homer of the year also went a long, long way:
Barrel: Ian Happ (18) [CHC] off Taylor Rogers [MIN]: 103.2 mph, 25 degrees (Home Run - 437 ft)— MLBExitVelocity (@MLBExitVelocity) July 1, 2018
Surprisingly, Lester came out for the sixth inning despite having thrown 94 pitches through five. On a hot, sticky afternoon, I’d have thought Joe Maddon would have had mercy on Lester and replaced him to start the inning. Or, maybe Lester wanted the ball to help save the bullpen. Neither of those things happened, and Lester walked Robbie Grossman to lead off the sixth, bringing in Steve Cishek. Cishek recorded two outs, but then Brian Dozier homered to make it 10-5.
Just before Dozier’s home run, Eduardo Escobar had hit a pop fly behind third base. It looked like Javier Baez was going to catch it, then Addison Russell raced over, and it appeared they got their signals crossed [VIDEO].
Russell left the game, and here’s what we know about that as of now:
#Cubs Russell will be re-examined on Tuesday. Someone stepped on his left hand during collision. He'd been bothered earlier this season with sore finger on that hand— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 1, 2018
Hopefully, this is nothing serious.
And the Cubs still had a four-run lead heading to the bottom of the sixth. Back in the 70s when games like this were played, you just knew more bad things were going to happen.
First, though, Contreras legged out a triple with one out in the last of the sixth. Really, that should have been a double; Contreras took a chance he probably shouldn’t have and got away with it. Fun fact:
Willson Contreras: first #Cubs catcher with 5 triples before the All-Star break since Gabby Hartnett in 1935— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 1, 2018
Contreras scored on a sacrifice fly. This run would turn out to be really, really important, though it didn’t seem so at the time. It was now 11-5 Cubs, and Cishek threw a scoreless seventh, helped out by a nicely-turned double play to end the inning.
Six outs to go. What could possibly...
Dillon Maples. Man, I really want this guy to succeed, he has a plus fastball and plus slider, but still doesn’t quite know how to command either one. He got two quick outs in the eighth, and then started getting pounded. Hard. A double, then a walk. A single by Logan Morrison made it 11-6. Willians Astudillo, and yes that name is spelled correctly, playing in just his second big-league game, tripled in two runs and it’s 11-8.
Twins catcher Mitch Garver was next. Garver, coming into this game, had two career home runs in 190 at-bats.
This was so 70s. Guys like this always hit home runs in games like this. Of course he homered off Maples, and now it’s 11-10. Right around this time a fairly heavy rainshower hit Wrigley Field, though it passed in about 10 minutes.
Brandon Morrow, who had been loosening up with the three-run lead in anticipation of a save opportunity in the ninth, was instead inserted into a game in the eighth inning for the first time this year. With such a big lead early, Joe wasn’t taking any chances. Morrow retired Cave on a fly to center to end the eighth.
In the bottom of the inning, Baez hit a ball down the left-field line for a single, except you know Javy — he tried to hustle it into a double. And did, and it was confirmed on review [VIDEO].
I just love watching Baez’ instincts at work. Seemingly tagged out easily, he lifts up his left arm and touches second base with his right, avoiding being tagged until after he’s safely into second. This brought out more “Javy! Javy! Javy!” chants at the ballpark. And you know, this has occurred to me recently: The Cubs have two big stars who are the faces of the franchise, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, and all Cubs fans respect both of them and their achievements. But Cubs fans love Javy Baez. I’d like to see Baez given a longterm deal at the end of this season, or maybe before if they can work it out.
Anyway, Baez wound up on third with two out after a wild pitch, bringing Morrow to the plate. Now this provided a chance for some real crazy stuff, because Morrow came into the game 0-for-23 lifetime as a hitter with 14 strikeouts, and hadn’t batted at all in three years.
Alas, and probably predictably, Morrow struck out.
So on we went to the ninth, and after recording the first two outs relatively easily, Morrow allowed a single to Eddie Rosario, then wild-pitched him to second.
Yikes. Storms are bearing down on the North Side of Chicago. Get this game over!
And Morrow did, getting Escobar to ground to Rizzo, who threw to Morrow covering to end the game, and the series, with a sweep.
The Cubs outscored the Twins 35-25 in sweeping this series, and here are some more fun facts after the Cubs won their fourth in a row:
#Cubs: 10+ runs in all 3 games of a 3-game series for first time since September 11-13, 1998 vs Brewers. Sammy Sosa hit home runs #59-62 during this series.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 1, 2018
And, better than all that, the Cubs’ two closest division rivals lost Sunday, so the Cubs now trail the Brewers by just half a game in the N.L. Central (and are even in the loss column), and are now five full games ahead of the Cardinals.
After three very long, hot, sultry, high-scoring wins this weekend, the Cubs will surely enjoy their off day Monday before the Detroit Tigers come to town for a two-game set beginning Tuesday afternoon. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Michael Fulmer goes for the Tigers. Game time Tuesday is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago.