Cubs catch fire vs. Fiers to extinguish slump

September 12th, 2016

HOUSTON -- In need of an offensive spark, the Cubs found just that in the first four innings of Sunday night's 9-5 prime-time win against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Though the Cubs are tied for the third-most runs in baseball this season (700), they had mustered very little offense leading up to Sunday. The North Siders put only four runs on the board in their three games prior to the series finale and collected only two hits in Saturday's loss.

But the Cubs, now 16 games ahead in the National League Central race, came out with a sense of urgency, garnering a walk and a RBI double off in the first inning to take an early 1-0 lead.

"That was very big," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Our goal is to score first every game. That's our goal: to score first and then win the inning. If you can just have that mentality of getting on the board first and then process-wise just win the inning, that's a pretty good formula."

Chicago followed the first inning with three hits for two runs in the second and four hits -- including a solo shot by -- for four runs in the third, giving the Cubs a 7-0 lead through three. Fiers was pulled after just 2 1/3 innings and was tagged with seven runs.

And they still weren't done.

After a leadoff single by in the fourth, blasted a two-run homer a Statcast-projected 396 feet onto the park's train tracks, giving him 20 on the season to go along with 90 RBIs. Ernie Banks is the only other shortstop in club history to reach that mark in a single season.

"I was thinking that [] didn't want to throw me his fastball," Russell said, "so he hit back-to-back sliders and then I said, 'You know what? We might even go a third time,' and I saw it from the hand and hit it deep."

Through four, the Cubs held a 9-1 lead, which was enough to garner their 91st win even as they went hitless over the last five innings of the game.

"Thankfully, our offense came out of the gates really hot and put up seven runs in the first three innings," Cubs pitcher said, "so that was more than enough to get the job done."