MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Chicago Cubs came through with some big late swings after being stymied by Minnesota starter Sonny Gray, the kind of clutch hitting the Twins have been badly lacking lately.
Rookie Matt Mervis crushed a tying RBI double in a seventh-inning breakthrough for the Cubs, who rallied to beat the Twins 6-2 on Friday night.
“We just continued to pass it on to the next guy,” manager David Ross said.
Yan Gomes had the go-ahead single in the seventh, Christopher Morel hit on a two-run homer in the ninth and Drew Smyly (4-1) pitched six strong innings for the Cubs on the opening night of a nine-game trip.
“I’m really excited about this win,” Smyly said. “We kept having good ABs and we just stayed in it, and then the end of the game we broke it open.”
Gray, whose 1.39 ERA is the best in baseball among qualified pitchers, gave the Twins another stellar turn with nine strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings with four hits and one run allowed.
Manager Rocco Baldelli gave the ball to Jovani Moran to finish the sixth by retiring Ian Happ — who had three hits — and Cody Bellinger, but Griffin Jax (2-5) stumbled in the seventh and lost the lead on four straight one-out hits.
“The guy is nasty. He may not be feeling like that right now, but he’s going to be a guy that we’re going to continue to turn to,” Baldelli said of Jax.
Mervis had the hardest-hit ball of all — tracked at 108.5 mph and 408 feet — when he drove a first-pitch changeup over center fielder Michael Taylor and into the bottom of the padding where the wall meets the warning track to drive in Patrick Wisdom. Mervis made his major league debut a week ago.
Smyly surrendered four hits and two runs with four strikeouts against the worst-hitting team in the major leagues to win his fourth consecutive decision.
The Cubs (19-19) are third in batting average and fifth in ERA in the major leagues but merely at the .500 mark, trailing Pittsburgh and Milwaukee in the NL Central.
The Twins (21-18) had only four hits and have scored just 30 runs in 10 games this month. They’ve still been in first place in the AL Central for all but two days this season, but this was their fourth game in May with four hits or fewer.
“I have all the confidence in the world in those guys,” Gray said. “Things will start turning around for us. There’s no doubt about that.”
Carlos Correa, who hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the seventh to lead a 5-3 victory over San Diego on Thursday, grounded into two inning-ending double plays and was booed again by the fans at Target Field expecting more production after his $200 million signing. The jeers would’ve been more pronounced had it not been for the hearty contingent of Cubs fans among the crowd of 30,037.
Correa went 1 for 4 with a double and is batting .193. Byron Buxton went 0 for 3 to stretch his hitless streak to 25 straight at-bats.
“We can’t change what we’re doing. We’re hitting the ball too hard,” Buxton said. “Things will change for us. When things change, we’ll get clicking. We’ve got to ride it out. It’s baseball.”
MOREL, THE STORY
Cubs second baseman Nick Hoerner was placed on the injured list prior to the game with a strained left hamstring, with the hope of a minimum 10-day stay retroactive to Tuesday. The 23-year-old Morel has taken his place in the field and in the leadoff spot and has two homers in three games.