Busch homers in 5th consecutive game to tie Cubs record

Hoerner, Brown also shine en route to 11-inning series-opening victory over D-backs

April 16th, 2024

PHOENIX -- wasted little time inserting himself into the Cubs’ record books.

The rookie first baseman entered Monday with a home run in each of his previous four games, one shy of a club record. But instead of teasing out the tension as he looked for a fifth homer, the 26-year-old just got it out of the way quickly.

In his first at-bat of the game, Busch blasted an 0-2 cutter from Arizona starter Merrill Kelly 419 feet into the Chase Field pool area in right-center to give Chicago an early lead en route to a 3-2 victory in 11 innings over the Diamondbacks. The Cubs have scored just 14 runs over their last five games, seven of which have come on Busch’s homers.

“You hit a home run in five straight games, you take notice of it,” said Cubs manager Craig Counsell. “He’s off to a fabulous start as a Cub. We’re grateful to have him for sure.”

Acquired from the Dodgers this winter, Busch earned a spot on the Opening Day roster but started the year just 2-for-13. His power surge has helped vault him into rarified air, though -- Busch is now batting .327 with a 1.141 OPS and six home runs.

Even more elite is the company he’s keeping in the record books. Only four other Cubs hitters have ever hit a homer in five straight games. One, current third baseman , accomplished the feat last May. The other three -- Sammy Sosa (1998), Ryne Sandberg (1989) and Hack Wilson (1928) -- are among the greatest players in team history.

The NL/AL record for consecutive games with a homer is eight, accomplished by the Mariners' Ken Griffey Jr. (1993), the Yankees' Don Mattingly (1987) and the Pirates' Dale Long (1956). Homers in six straight games would set a new club record -- such a streak has been achieved 35 times by 33 players (Willie Mays and Barry Bonds did it twice) in MLB history, most recently by Mike Trout in 2022. Busch’s new teammates like his chances to make it 34.

“It’s been an incredible hot streak, but it comes from a very even-keeled, super consistent person,” said second baseman , “which is why I believe in him so much.”

Busch was hardly the only Cubs hero Monday, however, nor the only standout rookie. Making just his fourth career big-league appearance and just his second start, flame-throwing rookie right-hander held the Diamondbacks to just one hit and one run over six innings.

Though he danced a bit between the raindrops -- the average exit velocity off Brown was 93.1 mph, and nine of the 15 balls put in play against him were hit at 95 mph or harder -- Brown nonetheless impressed his manager. The Cubs will have to make room for recovering starter soon, but Brown isn’t likely to be shipped out.

“He’s going to pitch for sure. We need him to pitch,” Counsell said. “He’s been so good.”

And then there’s Hoerner -- hardly a rookie at this point, but without whom the Cubs might not take the lead in the 11th, and they almost assuredly don’t tie the game in the ninth.

First, the play that kept Chicago alive. A pair of one-out singles placed Hoerner on second in the ninth inning with the Cubs down 2-1. De facto Diamondbacks closer Kevin Ginkel struck out Miles Mastrobuoni for the second out but then bounced a slider to Ian Happ that kicked off catcher Gabriel Moreno and ricocheted nearly into the visiting dugout.

Hoerner sprinted around third, waved in by third-base coach Willie Harris. Ginkel headed home to cover the plate, but just before he could apply the tag, Hoerner slid over the plate headfirst to tie the game. “I was going to run until something stopped me, pretty much,” he said.

The game remained tied, 2-2, into extras until Hoerner struck again in the 11th. With the bases loaded and no outs against reliever Bryce Jarvis, Hoerner fell behind 1-2, fouling off a couple pitches to stay alive. The sixth pitch of the at-bat was nearly at his shoulders, but Hoerner swung anyway, shooting into right field to plate the go-ahead run. According to Statcast, the pitch was 4.23 feet above the ground, the third-highest ball a Cub has smacked for a hit since Statcast was introduced in 2015.

The Cubs couldn’t score any further, but one run was all reliever needed to finally close the door.

“It was awesome to have that opportunity right there,” Hoerner said. “Maybe not a recommended pitch selection, but we’ll take it.”