The speedy center fielder, stuck in a rut for a week now, finally broke out with a big hit Sunday.
Oh, and Byron Buxton collected his first Target Field hit, too.
The Cubs’ Dexter Fowler, though, shook off a rough series by smashing a 2-1 fastball from Michael Tonkin deep into the right-field seats Sunday, a grand slam that capped Chicago’s 8-0 victory over the Twins and stuck the home team with a 4-9 record in its most recent 13-game stretch against some of baseball’s best.
More ominous: For the first time since May 6, the Twins have now given up more runs this season (283) than they have scored (280).
“We’ve played pretty well. We’ve just faced some really good pitching,” right fielder Torii Hunter said of the Twins, who have averaged 2.5 runs per game in two difficult weeks against the Royals, Rangers, Cardinals and Cubs. “We’ve just got to fight through little funks like this. They’re going to happen. Hopefully we can minimize them.”
The Twins had little chance against Jake Arrieta (7-5), who gave up four hits, only two after the first inning, and coasted to his second career shutout.
“He kind of got it all working there,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We came out and tried to be pretty aggressive with him, and we didn’t capitalize. … And we kind of backed off the pedal in terms of trying to get after him, and then we start swinging from behind the rest of the day.”
Fowler had been, too; the Cubs center fielder was 5-for-38 in his past eight games (.132) as he headed to the plate in the eighth inning. But with the bases loaded, he finished off a streak of 12 consecutive runs scored by the Cubs by launching his eighth homer, ensuring the Cubs would take two out of three and win a series against the Twins for the first time since 2001.
One of the Twins’ hits was a sharp single by Buxton in the eighth inning, ending an 0-for-14 start to his career in his home stadium. But that was about it for highlights for the Twins.
Starter Kyle Gibson battled with his control all afternoon, and he needed 102 pitches just to get through five innings. That broke a streak of six quality starts for the Twins, and extended Gibson’s winless streak to five games; his last victory came on May 24.
Gibson, though, was optimistic about his outing, believing he may be coming out of his mini-slump.
“They took a lot of close pitches, a lot of pitcher’s pitches I thought might get some swings,” Gibson said. “A lot of times I was standing out there thinking, ‘How did they not swing at that?’ ”
Rookie phenom Kris Bryant, who came to Target Field with a 14-game hitting streak, did swing; his 0-for-5 day included three strikeouts, bringing him to 0-for-13 for the series. Anthony Rizzo swung, too, at a changeup from Gibson. It landed 420 feet away in straightaway center field, his 15th home run of the year.
“It was down and away. Anytime you throw a pitcher’s pitch and the guy hits it really hard, you can either tip your hat or think it might not have been the right pitch,” Gibson said. “I executed the pitch I wanted to throw and he put a good swing on it.”
The Cubs did a lot of that once Gibson and reliever Ryan Pressly, who gave up one hit in two scoreless innings, left the game. Aaron Thompson didn’t retire any of the four batters he faced, and the three runners Tonkin inherited scored on Fowler’s second career slam.