LOS ANGELES -- Maybe it was hitting coach Chili Davis' pregame meeting or not getting much sleep after Wednesday's game, or seeing Clayton Kershaw exit after five innings. Whatever it was, the Cubs found their offensive groove on Thursday, posting an 11-5 win over the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.Albert Almora
LOS ANGELES -- Maybe it was hitting coach Chili Davis' pregame meeting or not getting much sleep after Wednesday's game, or seeing Clayton Kershaw exit after five innings. Whatever it was, the Cubs found their offensive groove on Thursday, posting an 11-5 win over the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.
Albert Almora Jr. smacked a key home run, Addison Russell drove in four runs, including a pair on a homer, Jason Heyward delivered a tiebreaking RBI double and Anthony Rizzo had four hits, including a three-run double, to take the season series.
"We were using the whole field," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We're talking about power and 'oppo' and ground balls up the middle. It was a really great approach. Albert pretty much provided the knockout punch with the homer."
The Dodgers' plan was to have Kershaw go five innings in his second start since coming off the disabled list.
"He's that good, where he can rehab in the big leagues," Rizzo said. "It's amazing. Knowing after his first start, he only went three [innings], and I know his pitch count was down but that's their franchise player. I don't see them taking a risk and sending him out for the sixth and the seventh. The game did change and we put together some nice at-bats."
The Cubs arrived in Los Angeles after being swept by the Reds in a series in which they were outscored, 31-13. Davis met with the players prior to Tuesday's game.
"Chili tells a lot of stories," Russell said. "Basically in that meeting, he's just saying what's on his mind. Other teammates might listen to something and come across to something that they [retain]. He throws a lot of stuff out there and he lets us do us."
The Cubs did it the Cubs' way in the seventh. With the game tied at 3 against Walker Buehler, they had runners at first and second, and Heyward lined a 2-2 changeup to right. Almora popped up toward first baseman Player Page for Max Muncy, who lost the ball in the sun, allowing another run to score. One out later, Rizzo cleared the bases with his double and Russell followed with his home run.
"If it weren't for 'Hurricane Cincinnati,' we're in pretty good shape," Maddon said of the trip, which they finished 2-6.
"When we hit, we all hit together," Rizzo said. "It's a good ending to a not-so-good road trip."
It was fitting that Thursday was the deciding game in the season series between the Cubs and Dodgers. The last time Kershaw and Jose Quintana met was the decisive Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. Could these two teams square off again in October? Anything's possible. The Dodgers and Cubs both began the day in second place in their respective divisions.
"We're doing this without everybody, too, and that's the better part," Maddon said of missing key players like Kristopher Bryant, C.J. Edwards and Yu Darvish. "Give our guys a lot of credit. They've gone above and beyond. How do we stand [against the Dodgers]? Do the eyeball test. Look at us and them on the field when the game begins. Normally it's going to come down to who pitches better. On the field, it really cannot be more even."
Neither Quintana nor Kershaw got a decision. Quintana remembers the last time he faced Kershaw.
"It's really good when you face guys like that," Quintana said. "It's different when you face guys like [Kershaw]."
The Cubs hitters feel that way, too.
"We're ready to see Kershaw for seven innings," Russell said
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Clutch: The Cubs have struggled with situational hitting this season, but Russell delivered in the fourth. Javier Baez, who struck out on a Kershaw curveball in the first, doubled off another curve to open the fourth. Two outs later, Russell singled to center to close the gap to 2-1. Russell came into the game batting .135 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
"I just think we were ready to play today," Russell said. "It seems like over the course of this road trip, everyone's been fine-tuning their approaches. Today you see a clear example of it being executed."
The Cubs went 7-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
Day of rest: Rizzo had five hits in 37 at-bats in his previous 11 games, and Maddon gave the first baseman Wednesday off, although he was needed to play defense late in the game. The four hits Thursday were a season high.
"I need to give him more days off," Maddon said.
Did Rizzo feel he had been struggling?
"It's that part of the season when things aren't going your way and you get frustrated a little more," Rizzo said. "A day like today is nice to be able to come in, and I put in some work in the cage. I just want to stay consistent. My biggest thing is consistency, which is what I've shown over the last few years so I want to get back to having consistent at-bats every time."
HE SAID IT
"I was kind of upset they took him out. I had some good swings against him. It worked in our favor." -- Almora, on the Dodgers' decision to pull Kershaw after five innings
Mike Montgomery will open a three-game Interleague series opposite Jose Berrios and the Twins on Friday. The lefty will be making his seventh start of the season. In his last outing, Montgomery gave up four runs over six-plus innings, his first rough start since moving into the rotation. In his five other starts, he'd given up four runs total. He's faced the Twins twice in his career, most recently on May 2016 in a relief appearance. First pitch will be 4:05 p.m. CT from Wrigley Field.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.