CHICAGO – The Cubs felt right at home with the wind blowing out Monday at U.S. Cellular Field.
Helped by gusts up to 41 mph out to left field, the Cubs belted a season-high five home runs, giving starting pitcher Matt Garza more than enough run support in a 12-3 victory in the opening game of their three-game interleague series with the crosstown White Sox.
Their 12 runs scored and 15 hits also were season-highs.
“That was no doubt our best offensive production of the year,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “Throughout the whole lineup, I think everybody had a pretty good day today, one way or another.”
The Cubs (23-44) took advantage of Sox starting pitcher Zach Stewart, who made his first start of the season. After Starlin Castro reached base with a two-out single in the third inning, Bryan LaHair, who played his first game of the season in right field, hit his 13th home run of the season to center field to stake the Cubs to a 2-0 lead.
Stewart allowed two more home runs in the fifth inning. Castro hit a two-run home run to left and, two batters later, Soriano followed with a solo shot to center.
Geovany Soto chased Stewart after only 5 2/3 innings with the Cubs’ fourth home run of the night, another solo shot, putting the Cubs up, 6-1.
“You get two outs and then [Stewart] just couldn't get that third out,” Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It was a night [the ball] was carrying, and they put it on the barrel a lot.”
The Cubs broke the game open in the seventh, sending 10 batters to the plate and scoring six runs off the Sox bullpen. Reliever Nate Jones allowed five consecutive hits without recording an out, including a three-run home run to Luis Valbuena.
Garza cruised through the first four innings, retiring 13 of the first 14 hitters he faced, before A.J. Pierzynski hit a solo homer in the fifth. Garza's only other mistake came in the sixth when Paul Konerko smoked a 1-1 pitch that hit off the top of the wall in center and bounced over for a two-run homer, cutting the Cubs lead to 6-3.
“Garza, besides a couple pitches, a couple fastballs to two really good hitters…was pretty good,” Sveum said. “He had a great fastball, location, slider, he did a really good job.”
Monday marked the fourth consecutive quality start for Garza (3-5), who hadn’t won a decision since throwing seven shutout innings April 29 against Philadelphia. Garza was 0-4 over his previous five games, and the Cubs had lost each of his past seven starts.
“Every outing since I missed my start [in early May], I’ve been getting a little better,” Garza said. “I’ve been throwing great and I feel like I’ve got my strength back.”
The 12 runs scored by the Cubs is the most allowed all season by the Sox, who now stand only a half-game up on Cleveland in the AL Central standings.