Cubs

Offensive explosion: Baez, Cubs annihilate Diamondbacks in opener

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Offensive explosion: Baez, Cubs annihilate Diamondbacks in opener

Looks like the day off did the Cubs good, huh?

The offense absolutely exploded as the Cubs (76-57) obliterated Diamondbacks (65-70) pitching in a 14-5 win Friday afternoon in front of 36,132 fans at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs (76-57) collected 12 hits - including four homers - and drew eight walks. Cubs hitters forced six Diamondbacks pitchers to throw 181 pitches over the eight innings.

"There were so many positives out there today," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

[WATCH: Javy Baez gets reacquainted with Wrigley Field bleachers]

The Cubs broke the game open in the fifth inning, sending 11 batters to the plate and scoring eight runs. Anthony Rizzo hit a grand slam and Javier Baez crushed his first big-league homer of the season. 

It was the first time the Cubs have scored eight runs in an inning since July 30, 2012 and the most runs scored at Wrigley since June 23, 2013. The Cubs are also 6-0 when they hit four or more homers this season.

It was especially impressive given that the wind was blowing in Friday afternoon. Both Rizzo and Bryant flew out to the warning track in the third inning on balls that probably would have been out if not for the wind.

But then, "Rizzo broke the wind..." Maddon said, smirking at his joke.

Everywhere you look at the Cubs box score, there were offensive stars.

Baez went 3-for-4 with a walk, driving in three runs in his second start since being recalled when rosters expanded Tuesday.

Addison Russell hit homers his first two times up before walking and scoring a run in the fifth. Rizzo added a single and a walk to his grand slam. Chris Coghlan walked twice, singled, drove in a run and scored twice.

"How about Addison? He pummeled those two balls into the wind," Maddon said. "Really good at-bats. Continues to do a wonderful job at shortstop. Twelve homers now - that's pretty impressive for that young man."

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Jon Lester even contributed on the offensive end, reaching base twice - on a walk and an error - and scoring a pair of runs. It was the first run of his MLB career.

"There's a first for everything. Took me nine years to do it, but better late than never. It's a little bit easier when it's a home run, too. You don't have to worry about too much - just jog around the bases," Lester said, while also joking he should have been sent on Austin Jackson's two-out base hit in the fifth inning (Lester later scored on Coghlan's bases-loaded walk).

"It's cool. It's different being out there again. It's been a while - obviously high school and all that stuff. It's fun running the bases."

Lester profited from the offensive output, picking up his ninth win of the season while allowing two runs in five innings.

He admitted Friday's start was a "grind" and wished he could have pitched more efficiently to stay in longer and get another step closer toward his season goal of 200 innings.

"At the end of the day, a W is a W," Lester said. "You gotta look at it that way and take the positive from it."

Former Cubs prospect Zack Godley - part of the Miguel Montero trade over the winter - took the loss by walking six and allowing four hits (two homers) and six runs in 3.2 innings. Godley was 4-0 with a 1.90 ERA prior to Friday.

The Cubs entered the game with only a +20 run differential, which was actually lower than the Diamondbacks' mark (+22), even though the Cubs had an 11-game lead on the D-Backs in the National League wild card race.

As for the day off Thursday, Maddon said the young team responded well to the rest.

"We were pretty spunky in the dugout prior to the game," Maddon said. "The guys were ready to roll. There was a great vibe among the whole group and you saw it.

"We needed that day [off]. It was very much necessary." 

The Cubs have only two days off the rest of the way, playing 30 games in a 31-day span, including a doubleheader in Pittsburgh on Sept. 15.

Friday was a nice start to the final stretch.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Mailbag edition

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Mailbag edition

3:00 - Listener question: Espada or Ross? Kelly Crull shares some inside info on Joe Espada

7:30 - Kelly talks about David Ross' second interview for the Cubs managerial job.

11:30 - Listener question: Say it is Espada, do you see any way David Ross comes on as a coach behind Espada?

13:30 - Listener question: Could the team regress further due to a lack of familiarity with a new manager?

20:10 - Listener question: How hard will Theo and Jed go after Gerrit Cole? And if he's not available who else is?

23:30 - Listener question: Are you trying to extend Castellanos?

26:00 - Listener question: If you sign Castellanos are you also trading Kyle Schwarber?

28:45 - Listener question: Should the Cubs trade Kris Bryant? What would they get back in return?

33:00 - Lighting round: Will Nico Hoerner be the opening day second baseman and keep the job in 2020?

33:10 - Lightning round: Will the Cubs bring back Cole Hamels?

33:45 - Can we and should we clone Javy Baez so we have a fresh Javy when he retires, or is that unethical?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

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Cubs reportedly had second interview with David Ross

Cubs reportedly had second interview with David Ross

The Cubs' managerial search is in full swing as they continue to line up intriguing candidates to replace Joe Maddon. In recent weeks, Houston Astros bench coach Joe Espada's name has been floated out as a strong candidate, with reports stating that the Cubs had already scheduled their second interview with the much sought after coach

While the fact that Espada is such a strong candidate in the midst of a World Series run has led many to believe he is the runaway favorite right now, it is still very much so a wide-open race. 

It was reported that while not extremely publicized, former Cub David Ross is believed to have had his second interview with the Cubs organization this week. 

Ross, who was extremely clutch in the Cubs 2016 World Series win, has an obvious and extended history with the organization. And while there are no concrete reports on the nature of any follow-up discussions between Ross and the Cubs, it was stated that the two sides have in fact at least had those expanded conversations.

As Kelly Crull hinted at in her tweet, Ross's position with the franchise definitely makes his negotiations about the managerial opening a bit more fluid, which may lead to fewer updates on his specific discussions with the team.  

Ross and Espada certainly sound like the favorites to land the Cubs' managerial opening, as our own David Kaplan stated that manager Joe Girardi, who has been connected to the Cubs throughout this search, looks like the front-runner for the Philadephia Phillies managerial spot. 

The 2019 World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros kicks off on Tuesday night. Traditionally you do not see MLB franchises make their managerial hiring announcements during the World Series,  so the Cubs' announcement could come on one of the World Series off-days, as early as Thursday. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.