CHICAGO – Warning to major league baseball teams: If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of Wrigley Field.
For the second straight afternoon, the Cubs on Saturday survived a war of attrition and dehydration with the Minnesota Twins, braving a rising heat index that began at 101 and rose to 107 to post a 14-9 victory.
The Twins lost three players to heat-related ailments – Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler and Bobby Wilson – while the Cubs’ Albert Almora Jr. surrendered with cramping.
Unlike Friday’s 10-6 victory, which featured home runs by four different players, the Cubs on Saturday used 17 singles among their 20 hits to put runs across the plate.
The end goal was victory, but so was survival on another steamy day.
“I think it was exactly what we did and what we were thinking of – is keep things simple,” said Almora who went 3 for 3 with a run scored and two RBIs before giving way to pinch-runner Mike Montgomery in the fifth inning. “You don’t want to try to do too much on days like this. You just want to kind of see the ball, hit the ball from the offensive part of it and then on defense, just try to get your job done.
“Try to keep things simple, man, and get a ‘W.’ ”
Maybe that explains the 17 singles, even on a day when it would have been fun to tee it high and watch it fly.
“Home runs are pretty cool, but I think the way we produced runs today was also special,” Almora said.
The Cubs scored three runs on five singles in the third. They sent 10 men to the plate in the fifth, scoring five runs on seven singles. They added another single in the sixth before Ian Happ spoiled the singles party with a double in the five-run seventh. Javy Baez and Tommy La Stella added a double apiece for the Cubs.
“For those that have never experienced West Texas baseball, that’s exactly what it looked like,” said manager Joe Maddon, whose team now is 46-35. “That’s what it played like. That’s what it felt like. Fortunately, we kicked the last field goal.”
Baez is a guy who likes to crank the home runs, but he also had a single in addition to his double.
“Really big for us, honestly,” he said. “When we play here with the wind, at least me, I forget about singles and everything. For me it’s hard to stay focused on line drives because I can use the wind. But I’ve been staying in my approach and with the things I’ve been working on in the cage and during batting practice. It’s been really good for me.”
The only downer for the Cubs was another rough outing for starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood. The Twins took a 3-0 lead in the second on a bases-clearing double by Joe Mauer (5 for 10, eight RBIs in the series). For the day, Chatwood lasted five innings, giving up seven hits and seven runs while walking three and striking out six. With the Cubs up, 4-3, he gave up four runs in the fifth after getting the first two batters out.
The Cubs have not had a quality start since Jon Lester turned one in June 20. Four relievers more or less held the fort the rest of the way, with Brian Duensing giving up a pair of runs.
“Chatwood was in great shape, two outs, nobody on, 81 or 82 pitches, and it turned into 103 and several more runs,” Maddon said. “I was really looking at him to get through this, go out for the sixth and if that’s not so bad, go out for the seventh. I was there mentally. And it just did not want to play out.”