Albert Almora, Jr. and the Chicago Cubs face the Minnesota Twins on Friday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
CHICAGO -- If the Chicago Cubs were looking for a glimmer of hope in an otherwise forgettable road trip, a seven-run seventh inning provided a spark.
A day before the Cubs open a nine-game homestand on Friday against the Minnesota Twins, Thursday's seven-spot helped deliver an 11-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers that helped the Cubs earn a split of the four-game series.
The Cubs lost six of the eight games on that road trip, but that victory in Thursday's series finale may have been just what the Cubs needed. Despite their recent struggles, the Cubs won't get too wrapped up in their recent skid.
"We're in June," center fielder Albert Almora Jr., told reporters. "Obviously, we want to get on a roll and start playing good baseball and this is a good way to move into our home (stand) now.
"We're not where we want to be obviously, but this is a step in the right direction."
Thursday's outcome was better than the news that came earlier in the day.
Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish experienced pain in his right triceps during a bullpen session Thursday, which will prevent him from returning to the starting rotation this weekend.
"It didn't go that well and he wasn't able to cut it loose," Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters, according to the Cubs' official website. "We'll re-evaluate once we go back to Chicago and let you know the next step. For right now, he's not going to be able to pitch on Saturday."
Darvish's injury has opened the door of opportunity for Mike Montgomery, who will open the series against the Twins. Montgomery (2-2, 3.39 ERA) transitioned into the rotation from the bullpen in late May and has been effective. But after allowing no more than one earned run in each of his first five starts, Montgomery struggled in his last outing when he allowed four runs over six innings against the Cincinnati Reds.
Montgomery is 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in two career appearances, including one start, against the Twins. The lone start came in 2015, when he allowed one run and four hits over six innings, but did not get a decision.
The Twins enter this weekend's series off a marathon 13-inning, 2-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Thursday. Minnesota avoided a sweep while playing the third of six games they will play in Chicago this week.
After Fernando Rodney allowed the tying run to score in the ninth inning, the Twins pulled out the victory with a bases-loaded walk to Max Kepler. The Twins will face the Cubs having lost five of their past seven games.
Like the Cubs, the Twins hope a win can build momentum after Minnesota's recent slide erased any positive energy that came earlier this month in series wins over the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox.
"Obviously, this series and the last series have been unfortunate coming off two huge series wins," second baseman Brian Dozier told reporters Thursday. "But that's kind of how we've played the first few months of the season, which is not good. But I keep saying this team has potential to catch fire and do good things. I know we keep waiting on that and waiting on that, and in a perfect world, it would start today. But I think the mindset is where it needs to be. We just have to start winning more games."
Jose Berrios will start for the Twins. Berrios (8-5, 3.15) has not lost since May 27 and is coming off a strong seven-inning effort against the Texas Rangers in which he allowed no runs and two hits and struck out 12.
Berrios will face the Cubs for the first time in his career on Friday.