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Cubs 11, Pirates 3: Now that’s more like it

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The Cubs broke out the bats, Joe got ejected, and Robel Garcia had himself a game.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs took out all their frustrations on the Pirates on Independence Day, as their bats exploded in some 4th of July fireworks in an 11-3 thrashing that included four home runs, ending their four-game losing streak.

They wasted no time in starting the home-run parade. Kris Bryant, in the first inning [VIDEO]

Albert Almora Jr., in the second inning, with Cubs homer number two of the game [VIDEO]

Albert’s eighth of the year was crushed!

The Pirates tied the game in the bottom of the second, but with two out and Bryant on second with a double in the third, it was Willson Contrerasturn to go deep [VIDEO]

After Willson’s homer, Robel Garcia got his first big-league hit, a triple. Fun fact!

The 4-2 lead turned into 4-3 in the bottom of the third and then Joe Maddon got himself tossed. At first I thought he had a beef with plate umpire Joe West, but West actually did the right thing here — holding Maddon back as it appeared he wanted a piece of Pirates manager Clint Hurdle [VIDEO].

The pitch in question went off Javier Baez’ bat, but Joe apparently was tired of seeing Pirates pitchers throw inside against the Cubs, something they have a reputation for. (Proven later when David Bote was hit in the head.) Joe was ejected, and I don’t blame West for doing it, but I also don’t blame Maddon for being upset. Fun fact!

And for those of you who have said the Cubs need to be fired up, that might have been part of the reason Joe did what he did. He wanted to make sure his players knew he had their back. I wholeheartedly support this kind of “firing up” — and the time following Joe’s ejection was exactly when the Cubs began to break the game open in the fifth inning.

Bryant led off with a double and Anthony Rizzo singled him in to make it 5-3. Contreras and Garcia singled to load the bases, after which the aforementioned Bote HBP happened, making it 6-3 and leaving the bases loaded. Two forceouts at the plate followed, leaving the bases jammed once again, and then Kyle Schwarber walked for the third run of the inning.

Your turn, Javy! [VIDEO]

That was such a typical Baez at-bat, swinging at a bad pitch, then lacing a single over the infield. Two runs scored to make it 9-3 and the blowout was on.

In the sixth, Rizzo led off with a triple (!), his second of the season, and scored on a groundout by Contreras to plate the Cubs’ 10th run, and even that RBI groundout is worth a look [VIDEO].

Notice how Rizzo takes a decent lead, then as soon as the throw is made to first, he takes off and scores easily. What a smart baserunner he is.

Garcia was the next hitter [VIDEO].

Garcia is absolutely as advertised. A bit shaky in the field (he made an error early, which was erased on a double play), a strikeout, then three hits including a home run. Fun fact!

Garcia came up in the ninth with a chance to hit for the cycle (he had a single, triple and homer). Now that would have been something, but he struck out. Still, that’s a fantastic first big-league start. There are two games remaining before the All-Star break. There is literally no reason not to start Garcia at second base in both of those games and see what he’s got. Also, there’s this:

Cubs record in games started by Addison Russell at 2B: 8-17
Cubs record in games started by Addison Russell at SS: 2-5
Cubs record in games not started by Addison Russell: 36-20

Now, let me be clear about this. I am not blaming Addison Russell for the 10-22 record in games he starts. Obviously there are other factors: pitching, lack of run scoring, etc. But this much of a difference in games he starts and games he doesn’t, particularly at second base, calls for a change. There’s absolutely no reason to start Russell or Daniel Descalso at second base, ever. Who knows? Maybe they have a keeper in Garcia. Let’s find out! I would like to see him start the next two games, then Theo & Co. can evaluate things during the break.

Tyler Chatwood relieved Jose Quintana (who had a solid seven-inning outing, six hits, three runs, six strikeouts) and threw an efficient 1-2-3 eighth and Steve Cishek finished up with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Now, it would seem to me that the Cubs should set up the post-break rotation so that they have Q and Jon Lester start against the Pirates, since Pittsburgh’s OPS vs. LHP is over 100 points lower than it is vs. RHP. Also, Q and Lester started two of the three games at Wrigley Field against the Pirates in April — the two games the Cubs won in that set.

The Brewers lost again to the Reds, another shutout, in case you think the Cubs are the only team who’s had trouble lately. The Milwaukee loss put the Cubs back into a first-place tie. Fun fact about the Brewers’ back-to-back shutout losses:

The Cubs have a rare Friday off day, which they surely need after 50 games in 52 days. They went 22-28 in those 50 games, When that stretch began the Cubs were two games in first place. But here are the records of the N.L. Central teams since then:

Reds 23-21
Cardinals 21-23
Brewers 22-24
Pirates 22-27
Cubs 22-28

That’s all pretty uninspiring for a couple months’ play, I’d say. And this Cubs team is talented enough to get a winning streak going and blow away all that mediocre competition.

Saturday evening, the Cubs travel to the South Side to face the White Sox. Jon Lester will go for the Cubs and Lucas Giolito starts for the Sox. Game time Saturday is 6:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be on Fox, with Len Kasper and A.J. Pierzynski as the announcers. Should be fun.