The Chicago Cubs will aim for their fifth win in a row when they host the Minnesota Twins to open a three-game series Friday night.
Chicago (30-20) enters the series with a 5 1/2-game lead atop the National League Central. The Cubs are coming off back-to-back, walk-off wins against the Cleveland Indians, which followed consecutive victories against the Milwaukee Brewers by a combined score of 16-2.
Javier Baez played the biggest role in the Cubs' latest dramatic win. He drove in the winning run in the 10th inning Wednesday and made highlight-reel plays on the bases and in the field.
"I love watching that guy play baseball," Cubs manager David Ross said. "It's a joy, and I've got a front-row seat. ... Javy's always going to affect the game and cause a little bit of chaos. You can't ever sleep on him."
The weekend marks the continuation of a lengthy stay in Chicago for the Twins (31-21), who are coming off a four-game road set against the Chicago White Sox in which they went 1-3. Now, Minnesota will head about eight miles north to Wrigley Field to try to end the trip on a high note.
Like the Cubs, the Twins are all but guaranteed a berth in the expanded playoffs. Yet Minnesota is looking to build momentum after watching the White Sox clinch a playoff berth Thursday with a 4-3 victory.
Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson will try to get back on track after a strange sequence Thursday in which he was ejected as he trotted toward home plate after hitting a home run. Donaldson stopped to kick dirt on the dish before touching it, which served as a not-so-subtle shot at the plate umpire because of a disputed strike call moments earlier.
"Josh's emotions got the best of him, and his frustration did get the best of him," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "Does he have gripes on some of those pitches? Yeah. But that is part of baseball and something we all have to adjust to, both players and staff and everybody involved, and the umpires do, too."
Right-hander Kyle Hendricks (5-4, 3.29 ERA) is scheduled to start Friday for the Cubs. He has been excellent in his past three starts, going 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA (four earned runs in 21 2/3 innings).
This will be Hendricks' second career start against the Twins and his first since 2015. Back then, he gave up seven runs (six earned) on 11 hits in five innings for a loss and a 10.80 ERA.
Meanwhile, the Twins will send left-hander Rich Hill (2-1, 3.81 ERA) to the mound. This will be Hill's seventh start of the season, which is his first in Minnesota.
The 40-year-old veteran has faced the Cubs three times, including two starts. Hill is 1-0 with a 1.98 ERA in those meetings, the most recent of which came last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He limited the Cubs to three runs on seven hits in seven innings.
The Cubs are 18-12 at home this season. The Twins are 10-16 on the road.
--Field Level Media