The Cubs put together the most powerful inning in franchise history

The Cubs put together the most powerful inning in franchise history

What a roller coaster.

After Jon Lester gave up nine runs in the top of the second inning, the Cubs stormed all the way back with the help of the most powerful inning in franchise history. But the comeback was to no avail as the Reds outlasted the Cubs in a 13-10 slugfest in front of 38,675 at Wrigley Field Thursday afternoon.

Ian Happ hit a solo homer in the second before the Cubs mashed four taters in the fourth inning, tying the franchise record for homers in an inning:

Back in 2008, it was Jim Edmonds, Mike Fontenot, Aramis Ramirez and Edmonds (again) homering in the fourth inning against the White Sox.

Thursday, it was Kris Bryant going yard first followed by Alex Avila, Happ and Javy Baez going back-to-back-to-back:

It was the first time the Cubs had hit three straight homers since Derrek Lee, Sammy Sosa and Michael Barrett turned the trick against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sept. 15, 2004.

Kyle Schwarber later got in on the yabo parade with an opposite field shot of his own in the fifth inning:

Here's an entire montage of dingers and planes as the Chicago Air & Water Show prepares for the weekend:

After Schwarber's homer, Anthony Rizzo doubled home Bryant and Avila doubled home Rizzo to tie the game at nine.

From there, the Reds scored a pair of runs in the top of the seventh and added solo tallies against the Cubs bullpen in the eighth and ninth innings. The Cubs did not have another comeback left in them, though Joe Maddon was more than pleased with the effort from his players.

Maddon said when he went out to remove Lester from the game in the second inning, he told all the infielders he needed each one of them to hit a homer. The quartet combined for four homers, but Happ hit two and Rizzo hit none and the homers were "not transferrable" Maddon joked.

It's the first time the Cubs have lost with back-to-back-to-back homers since 1999 and also the first time they were defeated when hitting six homers since 1979:

As Kyle Schwarber finds his groove, could he settle in at No. 2 spot in Cubs lineup?

As Kyle Schwarber finds his groove, could he settle in at No. 2 spot in Cubs lineup?

If the Cubs are going to have another deep postseason run this fall, they're going to need to lean heavily on Kyle Schwarber.

As the now-polarizing slugger climbs out of his midseason slump, Joe Maddon has moved Schwarber back up to the top of the lineup.

But not at leadoff, instead settling in with Schwarber in the two-hole, ahead of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

That's the spot in the lineup where Schwarber has spent the most time in his career with 60 starts hitting second, plus Games 6 and 7 in the World Series. 

After striking out in eight straight plate appearances from Saturday to Monday night, Schwarber then reached base in eight straight trips. After a first-inning single Thursday, his average raised to .200 on the season for the first time since May 9. Another couple of hits — including his 20th homer of the season — raised his season average to .204.

He's also making an impact in the field, where he threw out two runners at home plate in the first three games of the Reds series.

"All things considered, he's actually on a pretty good roll right now," Maddon said. "Watching the last couple days, it looks like things are getting shorter. The movements are getting shorter, he's making better decisions and it'd be great if we can just keep him in that two-slot right there.

"That's where he's been very successful either off of Jon Jay or [Ben] Zobrist [leading off]. I kinda like what that looks like right now. I think his confidence is coming back up.

"That's who he is; we know that's who he is. Sometimes, it just takes a while coming off missing a season. It just does. I just have a lot of faith in the guy."

Maddon is referring to Schwarber's knee injury that sapped all but a handful of games in 2016. 

Sure, Schwarber returned after more than six months off and raked in the World Series, but a lot of that could be attributed to adrenaline or what was at stake. It's a whole new challenge to perform at that level day in and day out for an entire 162-game season, especially as teams learn his weakness and how to gameplan against him at the plate.

In 33 games since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa on July 6, Schwarber is hitting .278 with a. 381on-base percentage and .969 OPS.

He's been working on shortening his swing and battling with two strikes to at least put the ball in play or foul off tough pitches to work a walk. The results in the four-game series with the Reds are an extremely small sample size, but Schwarber and the Cubs are encouraged.

Maybe keeping him atop the lineup (against right-handed pitchers) could help move his resurgence along even more. He still doesn't figure to get many starts vs. left-handed pitchers anytime soon.

Schwarber has a .355 on-base percentage and .481 slugging percentage out of the two-spot and with Willson Contreras currently on the shelf, this may be the best way to structure the Cubs lineup — making a 2-3-4 heart of the order with Schwarber-Bryant-Rizzo. It worked perfectly in the first inning Wednesday as Zobrist, Schwarber and Bryant all reached ahead of Rizzo's grand slam.

Bryant has spent most of the year hitting two for the Cubs, but dropping him to third could create more RBI opportunities for the reigning MVP if Schwarber can continue to get on base at a high clip.

"To me, the typicaly two hitter these days, I'd much rather somebody that is really good to drive the baseball, drive in runs compared to [the traditional guy who hits-and-runs and bunts]," Maddon said. "I'd rather a guy up there who can really move the baseball and also accept his walks.

"I like that. Part of KB's allure is he's a very good baserunner. Schwarbs is a good baserunner. He's not as fast as KB is, but he's still a good baserunner, makes good decisions out there. I kinda like it."

The last time the Cubs faced Homer Bailey, Anthony Rizzo became the face of the franchise

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AP

The last time the Cubs faced Homer Bailey, Anthony Rizzo became the face of the franchise

How's this for a #WayBackWednesday?

Homer Bailey — the Cincinnati Reds' starting pitcher Wednesday night — has dealt with arm injuries the last few years, meaning the last time he faced the Cubs was July 10, 2014.

The only holdover from that lineup three years ago is Anthony Rizzo:

The full lineup:

1. Chris Coghlan - LF
2. Arismendy Alcantara - 2B
3. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
4. Starlin Castro - SS
5. Luis Valbuena - 3B
6. Ryan Sweeney - CF
7. Nate Schierholtz - RF
8. John Baker - C
9. Kyle Hendricks - P

Yep, that was Mr. Hendricks' MLB debut. He gave up four runs in six innings before a bullpen combination of James Russell, Pedro Strop, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon and Blake Parker shut down the Reds to give the Cubs a 6-4 victory in 12 innings.

But that's not all. 

That was the same day Anthony Rizzo tried to take on the entire Reds roster after Aroldis Chapman struck out Schierholtz with a 103 mph pitch close to his head:

Rizzo emerged as a leader that day, willing to take on an entire team to back his own roster and stick up for his guys. That was the year before the Cubs made the playoffs and to that point, Rizzo had only been a part of losing teams. But he put the Cubs on his back starting that fateful day in Cincinnati, the last time Bailey faced the Cubs.

Alcantara — who is now in the Reds system and was just outrighted to Double-A this week — had four hits and drove in three runs in that game while Valbuena drove in the winning runs with a two-out triple in the top of the 12th. The Cubs finished 73-89 in 2014 under Ricky Renteria, who got a World Series ring from the Cubs last month for all the work he did in 2014.

Since that day, the Cubs have ended their championship drought (obviously) thanks in part to Chapman and Rizzo has become the unquestioned face of the franchise and one of the top players in baseball.