Solo HR streak carries Giants at Wrigley

Solo HR streak carries Giants at Wrigley

CHICAGO -- Joe Panik, Brandon Belt and Justin Ruggiano continued the Giants' trend to pepper teams with solo home runs on Monday night. The trio each hit a leadoff homer in the first, fifth and eighth innings, respectively, to power the Giants to a 6-4 victory over the Cubs and get a little payback in the first meeting between the two teams since the National League Division Series.

Ty Blach got the win in his seventh start subbing for injured Madison Bumgarner, although the Cubs made it interesting with a four-run eighth. The lefty cruised through seven innings and had a 6-0 lead, then gave up a leadoff single to Jason Heyward in the eighth, and Javier Baez followed with his seventh home run. Pinch-hitter Ian Happ tripled to chase Blach, and Ben Zobrist greeted Derek Law with another two-run homer.

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"Obviously, we're not tired of saying that we never quit," Baez said, referring to the Cubs' theme last year. "The game is 27 outs and maybe more. And we're just going to keep fighting until the game is over."

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The Cubs didn't have much of a scouting report on Blach. It was the 10th time this season the Cubs faced a starting pitcher who had not faced any player on their active roster, and Chicago now is 4-6 in those games. Asserting himself immediately, Blach endured a 13-pitch confrontation with Zobrist, the first batter he faced, and struck him out looking.

"It was good to have a battle like that," said Blach, who helped San Francisco improve to 8-2 in its last 10 games. "It kind of gets you locked in, especially being able to come out on top."

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The Giants now have hit 18 straight solo homers, and this was the first time in which they hit three home runs in one game. They still are last in the NL in homers with 38.

The wind may have had something to do with the homers. John Lackey had to deal with a hitter-friendly southwest wind of 15 mph and took the loss, serving up five runs on seven hits, including two homers, over five innings.

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"I threw the ball better tonight than I have my last three [starts]," Lackey said. "I felt I executed quite a few pitches. They got a few more balls up than we did. You've got to give [Blach] a lot of credit. He pitched really well."

Panik's all-around performance

Said Cubs manager Joe Maddon: "They took advantage of the wind, and we didn't today."

Quick start: Panik hit his first career leadoff homer, launching a 3-2 pitch from Lackey into the left-field bleachers, but the Cubs defense stopped the Giants from any further damage that inning. Shortstop Addison Russell made a great stop on Christian Arroyo's hard-hit ball and threw in time to get him at first. Albert Almora Jr. topped Russell with a beautiful grab of Belt's fly ball in center, snaring the ball while fully extended in the air. Statcast™ gave Almora a four-star catch, saying the catch probability was 44 percent. It was his first four-star catch of the season. Panik's homer, by the way, was the 13th the Cubs pitchers have served up in the first inning, with four of those leading off games.

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"That's a great play -- he stayed with it," Heyward said of Almora's catch. "He's confident in his ability and his judgment." More >

Overeager: Almora handled center well, but he got a little greedy in the sixth. With one out, Almora singled, with the ball dropping in front of Ruggiano in right. Almora was halfway to second, hesitated, and was thrown out 9-1-6 as Blach did his job covering at first.

"It reminded me a lot of the PCL." -- Blach, on the windy conditions at Wrigley Field, after seeing plenty of weather variety in 2015-16 with the Giants' Pacific Coast League affiliate in Sacramento

"If we keep playing that game, it'll make me a happy person. I thought we played really well. We had really good at-bats, played our defense. That's what I'm looking for, more of that. When you lose a game like that, my thought has been if we keep playing like that, we'll win plenty." -- Maddon

• The Major League record for consecutive home runs of the solo variety is 21, which the Giants set in 2011.

• According to the Statcast™ trackers, the home runs smashed by Panik and Belt were the Giants' first two opposite-field dingers hit by left-handed batters this season. Due to exit velocity and launch angle, as measured by Statcast™, the homers carried hit probabilities of 25 percent and 28 percent, respectively.

Belt's solo homer

With one out and a runner at first in the Chicago fifth, Baez hit a grounder to third baseman Arroyo, who threw to Panik at second for the force, and then first for what was called a double play. The Cubs challenged the ruling at first base, and after a review, the call was overturned and Baez was safe.

Cubs win challenge

Giants: San Francisco feels good whenever Johnny Cueto takes the mound, as he will do in Tuesday's 4:05 p.m. PT encounter with the Cubs. The Giants are 6-3 in his starts, though he's 3-2 with a 4.94 ERA in five road games. Seven of the eight homers off him this year have come on the road.

Cubs: Jon Lester will make his 10th start of the season on Tuesday. The lefty is coming off a win over the Reds in which he gave up three runs over six innings in his fourth quality start. Lester beat the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS on Oct. 7, throwing eight shutout innings. First pitch will be at 6:05 p.m. CT from Wrigley Field.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.