Home-run party: Cubs slug four dingers in offensive explosion versus Twins

by - Senior Writer -
Addison Russell made Chicago Cubs history by becoming the club's first shortstop to ever amass four RBI in back-to-back games. (Photo Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports)
Addison Russell made Chicago Cubs history by becoming the club's first shortstop to ever amass four RBI in back-to-back games. (Photo Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO — Despite falling down 3-0 just two innings in, the Chicago Cubs found a way to dominate the opener of their three-game series with the Minnesota Twins. Braced by a critical grand slam from shortstop Addison Russell, the Cubs tabbed four total home runs in an offensive explosion against the Twins. Providing Minnesota with a rude awakening in its first trip to Wrigley Field since 2009, Chicago slugged its way to a 10-6 victory.

All-time great Twin Joe Mauer was a one-man wrecking crew for Minnesota early on, driving in each and every run scored by the Twins in the first four frames. With two outs in the second inning, Mauer took Cubs starter Mike Montgomery deep for a three-run bomb, marking just his second homer of the year. Mauer also came through with a two-out, two-run double in the fourth that made the score 5-2 in favor the Twins. Entering the game with 13 RBI, Mauer increased that total to 18 on the evening.

As for the Cubs offense, Chicago loaded the bases in the second inning, but Montgomery struck out to end the inning. Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward made up for it in the third inning with a two-run blast. Heyward's fifth home run of the year came after a leadoff single by center fielder Albert Almora, Jr., making it 3-2 at the time.

Starting pitching was an issue for both clubs, with Montgomery and Twins hurler Jose Berrios both struggling. Berrios was knocked out of the game in the fifth inning after giving up six runs on six hits and four walks. Montgomery was charged with five of the Twins' six runs in a five-inning start, in which he was taken for seven hits and three walks.

Montgomery left on a positive note, though, with Chicago accruing an out at the plate in the fifth to prevent Minnesota from increasing its lead. After the Twins' Brian Dozier drew a one-out walk, the Cubs' Ian Happ, who manned third base in the contest, showcased his inexperience at playing the hot corner. Letting a routine ground ball roll through his legs and into left field, Happ enabled Dozier to reach third.

Happ went all out to prevent his mistake from turning into a run, though. In the next at-bat, a grounder was hit to Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who proceeded to trot across the infield grass to trap Dozier in a rundown on the third-base line. Once Happ received the ball, he chased Dozier, who slid headfirst into home. Diving after Dozier, Happ swiped him with his glove just in time to prevent a run from scoring. In the process, Happ was inadvertently kicked in the face, but he remained in the game.

The bottom half of the fifth saw the Cubs take their first lead of the game on Russell's grand slam. Serving as his fifth home run of the year, Russell's blast to left was assisted by a steady win that was blowing out. The round-tripper chased Berrios from the game and occurred after a single, a hit batter and another single loaded the bases. With the grand slam, Russell secured his second consecutive game of having at least four RBI, making him the first Cubs shortstop to ever do that. Not even the great Ernie Banks ever tallied four or more RBI in two straight games. Russell, whose lone hit of the matchup came on the grand slam, now has 25 RBI for the season.

From there, the Cubs dominated. Even after receiving the short end of the stick on a play at the plate involving Kyle Schwarber later on in the fifth, the Cubs were not fazed. Cubs skipper Joe Maddon opted to challenge the play, in which Schwarber appeared to slide under the catcher's tag. However, the original call of Schwarber being out stood after the review.

Schwarber took matters into his own hands a few innings later by leading off the seventh with a solo jack to center field, which was his 16th long ball of the season. In the inning prior, Ben Zobrist put the Cubs up by three runs with a two-run blast into the bleachers beyond right field. Zobrist's sixth homer of the season scored Heyward, who went 2-4 at the dish and scored three runs.

The Twins, meanwhile, went cold offensively and, following Mauer's two-run double in the fourth, failed to collect a hit until the final inning. Three Cubs relievers combined to pitch three innings of shutout baseball in the sixth through the eighth frames. Of the relievers, Randy Rosario was the only one to allow a Twin to reach base. Interestingly enough, it came on a walk issued to a fellow Rosario, as Minnesota left fielder Eddie Rosario walked in the seventh.

Putting an exclamation mark on the offensive onslaught by the Cubs, which featured a combined 12 hits, Rizzo scored Almora, Jr., for his 54th RBI on an infield single in the eighth. The Twins added a meaningless run in the ninth via an RBI single from Robbie Grossman, but the Twins were unable to mount a serious comeback. Cubs closer Brandon Morrow entered with two outs in the ninth and the tying run on deck, and, on his first pitch, he forced a game-ending flyout for his 17th save.

In spite of his struggles, Montgomery picked up the win to move to 3-2. Berrios was handed the loss to drop to 8-6. Friday's 10-6 game marked the 12th contest of the year in which the Cubs scored 10 or more runs, which leads the majors. The North Siders have now scored a combined total of 21 runs in their last two games. Beginning their eight-game home stand on the right foot, the Cubs improved to 45-35 while dropping the Twins to 35-43.

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