The Cubs stressed Friday they were going to be patient with Kyle Schwarber’s mildly strained right rib cage. They don’t want him to rush back and risk making the injury worse, something that would potentially turn a brief absence into a longer one.
What happened against the Arizona Diamondbacks showed why the Cubs can afford to be so cautious.
Addison Russell homered twice, Anthony Rizzo hit a grand slam and Javier Baez went deep for the first time this year as the Cubs routed Arizona 14-5 in front of 36,132 at Wrigley Field. The Cubs sent 11 men to the plate and scored a season-high eight times in the fifth inning, pulling 7 1/2 games ahead of fading San Francisco for the second National League wild card.
The offense battered Arizona pitching in multiple ways to start the three-game series.
The Cubs drew eight walks and three came with the bases loaded. Baez, who came into Friday hitless, had three hits and walked once while Jon Lester even scored twice for the first two runs of his career.
“First time crossing home plate. There’s a first for everything,” Lester said. “It took me nine years to do it. Better late than never.”
But those homers put the game well out of reach.
Russell had his first multi-homer game, homering off former Cubs prospect Zack Godley in the second and fourth innings. In the fifth, Rizzo connected for his first grand slam of the season when he took a 1-0 A.J. Schugel pitch well into the right-field bleachers to give the Cubs a 12-2 lead.
Two batters later, Baez hit a two-run drive off Silvino Bracho to cap the eight-run inning, with all the runs unearned after an error by Nick Ahmed on a Lester grounder.
“The at-bats were spectacular,” manager Joe Maddon said.
The Cubs’ starting infield of Rizzo, Russell, Baez and Kris Bryant combined to drive in 11 runs.
Lester (9-10) went five innings and allowed two runs and five hits while striking out three. In the fifth, Ender Inciarte reached on a bunt then stole second and third with little trouble before scoring on Phil Gosselin’s double.
Though Lester won for the first time since Aug. 13, he didn’t sound thrilled with his day.
“Grind. Grind. A lot of foul balls, a lot of long counts. Didn’t do a very good job, even though the guys picked me up, of getting these guys back in the dugout,” Lester said. “But at the end of the day a ‘W’ is a ‘W.’ You’ve got to look at it that way and take the positives from it.”
In 3 2/3 innings, Godley allowed six runs, four hits and walked six. He and pitcher Jefferson Mejia were sent to Arizona in December for catcher Miguel Montero.
Diamondbacks star Paul Goldschmidt didn’t play after he and his wife welcomed a child Wednesday.