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Cubs hold on after Lester's HR sparks slugfest

Morrow seals sweep of Twins in 4th straight win with at least 10 runs
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- If the Cubs proved anything during their three-game sweep of the Twins, it's that they can score runs without relying on the homer. However, all home runs are welcome, especially when Jon Lester smacks a three-run shot in the second inning as he did in Chicago's 11-10 win on Sunday.

"We're not trying to hit home runs -- we're moving the baseball, we're hitting it to all fields," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the approach. "We wait for the pitcher to come up and hit the three-run homer, that's the right thing to do. The other guys move the baseball around."

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CHICAGO -- If the Cubs proved anything during their three-game sweep of the Twins, it's that they can score runs without relying on the homer. However, all home runs are welcome, especially when Jon Lester smacks a three-run shot in the second inning as he did in Chicago's 11-10 win on Sunday.

"We're not trying to hit home runs -- we're moving the baseball, we're hitting it to all fields," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the approach. "We wait for the pitcher to come up and hit the three-run homer, that's the right thing to do. The other guys move the baseball around."

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The Cubs batted .418 and totaled 35 runs in the three-game series. They scored at least 10 runs in all three games, and have now done so in four consecutive games for the first time since June 1-6, 1930. They've also scored at least 10 runs in 14 games this season, tops in the Major Leagues.

Video: MIN@CHC: Lester belts 406-foot homer at 102.8 mph

Arms That Hammer Sweepstakes

"We're not trying to go out there and slug our way," Kyle Schwarber said. "I think [Saturday] we had nine runs, with all base hits. That was great. We're just going out there trying to make hard contact. It's paying off."

On Saturday, the Cubs collected a season-high 20 hits in a 14-9 win, but only three were extra-base hits and none were home runs. On Sunday, they totaled four extra-base hits in the second alone, including Lester's homer plus back-to-back-to-back run-scoring doubles by Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Schwarber. Two runs scored on Baez's hit.

"Close your eyes enough and swing hard enough, you'll eventually run into one," Lester said.

Video: MIN@CHC: Maddon, Lester on Cubs' 11-10 win, sweep

"It was a heck of an at-bat," Schwarber said. "[Twins starter Lance Lynn] was making some pretty good pitches on him, too."

And Schwarber's message to Lester after the inning was over?

"'Good hit. Time to go pitch,'" Schwarber said. "'I don't care if you hit a homer or not. I just want you to keep getting guys out.'"

Video: MIN@CHC: Lester strikes out Morrison with bases full

Lester survived the heat and two long first innings on the mound to improve to 7-0 in his last seven starts and now leads the National League with 11 wins. He joins Jake Arrieta (twice) and Mark Prior (2003) as the only Cubs pitchers since 2000 to win seven in a row.

Jake Cave homered off Lester in the second and hit an RBI double in the fifth, two of the nine hits off the left-hander, who went five-plus innings.

"The big thing for me today was the in-between-inning routine kind of changed," Lester said. "Usually I'm on the bench and hanging out there, but I was down underneath, taking a break and I had some fans and cold towels and all that stuff. I had 45 or 49 [pitches] after two [innings], that doesn't help the situation. The wind blowing out, you're trying to be a little bit more perfect than normal. It hurt me in the first two innings."

Video: MIN@CHC: Cave launches solo homer to open the scoring

Four players had to leave Saturday's game because of heat-related issues, but there didn't appear to be any problems on Sunday. Game-time temperature was 93 degrees with a heat index of 101. The Cubs had cooling stations available around Wrigley Field.

"I can't be more impressed with the way our guys played on the field," Maddon said. "Under the circumstances, the heat, they're out there, they played well, we hit well, we ran the bases great. We did so many things well in adverse conditions. Give them a lot of credit."

The Twins rallied in the eighth, scoring five runs, all with two outs, against Dillon Maples, including a pair on Mitch Garver's two-run homer. It also started to rain a little, which provided a brief respite from the heat. Brandon Morrow got the final four outs for his 18th save.

"We're good after a little rain delay," Maddon said.

Video: MIN@CHC: Morrow notches 4-out save to nail down sweep

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Pitchers who rake: Schwarber singled to open the Cubs' second, and one out later, Addison Russell walked. Lester battled Lynn in a seven-pitch at-bat, and was behind 1-2 when he took two pitches, fouled off another, and then launched a fastball into the left-field bleachers. It was Lester's second career home run and first since Aug. 1, 2017, when he connected against the Diamondbacks. It also was the first time Lynn has served up a home run to a pitcher.

"Obviously, being over here [in the NL] and actually having to be responsible for that nine-hole, it's important," Lester said. "It's important to have good at-bats. I feel I've done that regardless of the outcome, I've had good at-bats and haven't been just a one-pitch out guy. I've worked some counts and been able to at least make the pitcher work, that's all I'm trying to do. If I get hits, I get hits.

"The home run is awesome, it's cool, especially at home. It's always fun to play here with the crowd and hit the ball in the bleachers. At the end of the day, I'm a pitcher, not a hitter."

Video: MIN@CHC: Lester smashes 3-run jack for 2nd career HR

When he was pitching in the American League, Lester said he wouldn't think about hitting until one week before an Interleague series.

"Here it changes," he said. "It can dictate the game if you get a bunt down and move the runner or get a base hit. The hitting stuff will always be a bonus."

Big fly: Ian Happ led off the fifth with his 10th home run, a 437-foot shot into the left-field bleachers, to open a 10-3 lead. According to Statcast™, that's the third-longest home run by a Cubs player this season (as well as the third-longest of Happ's career). He finished with a season-high three hits and is the fourth Cubs player to reach 10 home runs this season.

Video: MIN@CHC: Happ clubs big fly for 10th homer of season

Happ is one of many who seem to have benefited after a team meeting with hitting coach Chili Davis last week in Los Angeles.

"We've done a good job recently," Jason Heyward said. "The last few series, regardless of the results of the game, we've done a good job keeping pressure on the other team. One thing Chili brought up to us in L.A. was treat every inning like it's 0-0 and keep battling to get a run."

Video: Must C Crushed: Lester belts a 3-run HR off Lynn

SOUND SMART
This is the first time the Cubs have scored at least 10 runs in each game of a three-game series since Sept. 11-13, 1998, against the Brewers.

INJURY UPDATE
Baez and Russell collided along the left-field foul line chasing Eduardo Escobar's popup in the Twins' sixth. Russell somehow caught the ball but had to leave the game after athletic trainer PJ Mainville looked at his left hand. Someone stepped on the hand, which Russell injured in early June. Maddon said Russell might be ready for Tuesday's game.

Video: MIN@CHC: Maddon discusses Russell's hand injury

HE SAID IT
"There's rhythm. There's just good at-bats all around. When balls are flying around the ballpark, it's contagious. It's fun to watch, even if you're just sitting in the dugout. To see these guys going up there, competing and putting together really good at-bats, that's when [it's easy]. Like I said, it's easy when it's going good, but whenever things go bad too, that's when you get to be good as well." -- Schwarber, on the Cubs' offense

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Baez doubled to lead off the Cubs' eighth, but the Twins challenged the call, saying second baseman Brian Dozier had tagged him out. After a review, the call was confirmed.

Video: MIN@CHC: Baez's double is confirmed in the 8th inning

UP NEXT
After a much needed off-day Monday, the Cubs will play host to the Tigers at Wrigley Field for a two-game Interleague series. Kyle Hendricks will start Tuesday coming off an abbreviated outing against the Dodgers. He lasted 2 2/3 innings and gave up six runs on eight hits. What's been wrong? He's having a tough time with location. The right-hander is healthy and his velocity is actually up a tick. He has a 2.96 ERA in eight home starts. The Tigers will counter with Michael Fulmer. First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT from Wrigley Field. The last time the Tigers came to Wrigley was 2015, and they swept a two-game series. Detroit is 9-2 against the Cubs in Chicago since 2000.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Javier Baez, Ian Happ, Jon Lester, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber