Ask Joe Maddon to describe Addison Russell, and he will respond with two words: slow heartbeat.
But two days after Cubs fans were thrown into temporary panic mode with the first two-game losing streak of the season, Russell pumped some life back into the ongoing North Side party.
He hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning, one of three homers hit by the Cubs in their 9-4 victory over the Pirates on Friday at Wrigley Field.
Russell’s blast broke open a scoreless game after Cubs starter Jason Hammel and Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano breezed through 3½ innings.
Ben Zobrist singled to lead off the fourth, and Jorge Soler walked. Russell pushed Liriano to a 3-2 count before launching his next offering into the left-field bleachers.
Hammel said the home run affected Liriano.
“It was huge,” Hammel said. “It kind of completely threw Liriano off.”
To his point, the Cubs scored five runs off Liriano in the fifth on a two-run homer by Kris Bryant and a three-run shot by David Ross.
With the wind blowing out, the Cubs provided Hammel with plenty of run support, and he kept the Pirates in check with great command of his fastball. Hammel allowed one earned run and eight hits with two walks and eight strikeouts in 6⅔ innings.
Dexter Fowler added an RBI double in the eighth, but it was Russell’s blast that sparked the Cubs. Until that point, Maddon was worried about a possible hangover, not from his team losing a doubleheader to the Padres on Wednesday, but from the day off Thursday.
That changed when Russell snapped the Cubs’ 17-inning scoreless drought and extended his season-high hitting streak to seven games.
“There’s really nothing hurried about him,” Maddon said. “He’s just got a great way about him.”
Ross’ homer was the 99th of his career. Ross, who side-stepped questions about putting off his retirement after the season if he continues to produce, returned to a celebration in the dugout. His teammates gathered around and held one finger in the air to signify the lone home run that stands between him and the century mark.
While Hammel joked about the party that’s coming once Ross connects on his next home run, Ross downplayed the achievement, keeping his focus on the real reason why he came back for one final season.
“Listen, if I don’t get 100, it’s not like I’ve had a horrible career,” said Ross, who went 3-for-4 for his first three-hit game since 2014 and his first three-RBI game since 2012. “I am who I am. These guys are rooting for me to get 100, but if I don’t, I won’t go home and sulk.
“I’ll hit 99 and we’ll win a World Series, and that will make me just as happy as 100, that’s for sure.”
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