Cubs outlast Twins in slugfest to secure sweep

by - Senior Writer -
The Chicago Cubs used an eight-run second inning to outpace the Minnesota Twins. (Photo Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports)
The Chicago Cubs used an eight-run second inning to outpace the Minnesota Twins. (Photo Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO — Appropriately, a three-game series between the Chicago Cubs and the Minnesota Twins that was more befitting of a video game than reality concluded with a frenetic offense-oriented affair. Producing a combined 21 runs and 30 hits, the Cubs and the Twins put a bow on a series that featured a grand total of 52 runs with an 11-10 slugfest on Sunday afternoon. Lasting nearly four hours, the contest featured an eight-run inning by Chicago and a five-run inning by Minnesota. Culminating in a Cubs victory, as well as a Cubs sweep, the matchup was electrifying from start to finish.

Jon Lester got the nod to start on the mound for the Cubs, and he collected his seventh straight win. Benefiting from the Cubs' solid hitting, including a pivotal hit on his behalf, Lester received the win after giving up two earned runs on nine hits and three walks in five innings pitched. Lester is now 11-2 overall.

The first run of many in Sunday's contest came via a second-inning home run by Twins center fielder Jake Cave, who went 3-5 at the dish. In the bottom of the second inning, Cave's home run was essentially relegated to meaninglessness when the Cubs tacked on eight runs to chase Twins starter Lance Lynn from the game. A familiar foe for the Cubs, Lynn, a former St. Louis Cardinals hurler, was charged with seven of the eight runs scored in the inning and, ultimately, received the loss to fall to 5-7.

With men on first and second and one out in the bottom half of the second frame, Lester came up to bat. While a bunt attempt would have been reasonable for a pitcher hitting in that kind of spot, Lester, who has greatly improved his hitting acumen in recent seasons, opted to swing for the fences. That decision paid substantial dividends, as Lester jacked a three-run bomb into the bleachers behind center field for his second career home run.

Later in the second, the Cubs went tacked on five more runs, all of which came with two outs in the inning. Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber each hit doubles in three straight at-bats to put the Cubs ahead 7-1. Baez accrued two RBI on the day to increase his team lead to 61 runs driven in this season. Willson Contreras, who, along with Baez and Ian Happ, was one of three Cubs to garner three hits on the afternoon, finished off Chicago's scoring barrage with an RBI single that scored Schwarber and made it 8-1.

Twins reliever Matt Magill, who replaced Lynn after Baez's double, was charged with the final run of the second frame. He gave up another run when, in the fourth, Cubs shortstop Addison Russell hit an RBI single to center that scored Baez. Russell left the game in the top of the sixth after colliding with Baez on an attempt at catching a pop-up.

An error committed by Baez in the first at-bat of the top half of the fifth inning led to a productive two-run frame for Minnesota. Catcher Mitch Garver drove in a run on an RBI single to left, and Cave followed that up with an RBI double to right-center, which cut Chicago's lead to six. Both hits came with two outs.

Happ, who hit leadoff for the Cubs, began the bottom of the fifth with a towering 437-foot shot to left-center. Serving as the third-longest home run of Happ's career, as well as the third-longest home run hit by a Cub this year, the solo blast gave Happ 10 home runs on the season. The Twins continued their string of two-out successes with a two-out home run in the sixth. Second baseman Brian Dozier took Cubs reliever Steve Cishek deep on a two-run bomb, thereby making the score 10-5.

The Cubs manufactured one final run in the sixth inning, with Contreras setting it up on his fifth triple of the season. In the next at-bat, Contreras was able to trot home on a sacrifice fly from David Bote, putting the Cubs ahead by six runs. If not for a questionable decision by manager Joe Maddon, the Cubs could have easily won quite comfortably, but, instead, an awful inning by a young Cubs relief pitcher let the Twins right back into the ballgame.

With reliever Brian Duensing being placed on the disabled list earlier in the day, Dillon Maples was recalled from the Triple-A Iowa Cubs to replace Duensing on Chicago's 25-man roster. After pitching two scoreless innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday, Maples was given another opportunity to shine when handed the ball in the eighth with a six-run lead to work with. Although he collected consecutive outs to start the inning, Maples went on to give up five runs with two outs before being pulled in favor of closer Brandon Morrow.

Eduardo Escobar incited the rally for the Twins with a ground-rule double. A walk of Dozier and an RBI single by Logan Morrison ensued. Willians Astudillo then pulled the Twins to within three on a two-run triple. Logic would dictate that the inexperienced Maples should have been pulled at that point in time, if not earlier. However, Maddon allowed the young pitcher, who was making just his eighth career appearance at the Major-League level, to work through his troubles. But, unfortunately for Maddon and the Cubs, all that Maples was able to do was bring about even more trouble.

Garver took Maples deep on a full count for a two-run blast to left, which resulted in Morrow being ushered into the game for a potential four-out save. Of course, the question loomed as to why Morrow was not ushered into the game earlier, before the Twins pulled to within one run, but, nonetheless, Morrow did what he was called upon to do. He pitched 1.1 innings of one-hit ball to obtain his 18th save and secure an 11-10 win for the Cubs.

An interesting three-game sweep for Chicago that featured fairly subpar pitching and unbelievably great hitting, the series against the Twins saw the Cubs score 10 or more runs in each matchup of a three-game set for the first time in 20 years. Furthermore, the Cubs have now reached a double-digit run total in four straight games for the first time since 1930. Standing at 47-35, the Cubs are currently 3-0 in their eight-game home stand and will resume game action with a two-game affair against the Detroit Tigers after an off day tomorrow.

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