Matt Szczur homered on the first pitch of the game against Justin Nicolino, then led off the third inning with a double that ignited a three-run rally, lifting Iowa to a win in the series finale Tuesday at Zephyr Field.
Kyle Schwarber homered leading off the fifth against Nicolino (4-5), giving the Cubs a 5-1 lead. Iowa (45-40) won the last three games among the five played, with the second game of Monday’s doubleheader a makeup of an April 16 rainout. The Cubs won the season series 9-7.
The Z’s (40-45) closed within 5-3 in the fifth on Brandon Bantz’s RBI single and Donovan Solano’s double off the left-field wall that brought home Scott Sizemore.
Iowa first baseman Christian Villanueva hit a bases-clearing double in the ninth against reliever Rob Morey.
Diaz in the swing
Juan Diaz is batting just .278. In his past 20 games, though, he has hit .324, with three home runs, seven doubles and 11 RBIs.
Diaz didn’t join the Z’s until April 17 — eight days after the season started — following his release by Charlotte of the International League. That was after he had been released by the parent Chicago White Sox three days before the major league season opened.
Diaz started slowly with the Z’s, just like he did with Charlotte. But he said he liked having the chance to work again with hitting coach Damon Minor.
“He has helped me handle inside pitches better,” Diaz said. “We started last season working on that. I just take my time and wait for a good pitch more now.”
Solving the riddle
Zephyrs pitchers had shut out Iowa for 23 innings — dating to their series in April — before the Cubs scored in the first inning against Kendry Flores in Monday’s first game.
Cubs manager Marty Pevey said the Zephyrs had a good scouting report and their pitchers executed well.
“They were effective with their off-speed pitches and getting us to chase balls down and out of the zone,” Pevey said. “They expand the strike zone up, too, with their four-seam fastball.”
The Cubs hit three homers in the doubleheader and two in Tuesday’s series finale.
“We had yet to adjust and stop chasing balls down in the dirt,” Pevey said.
Former LSU standout Austin Nola, who played in his first home game with the Zephyrs on Saturday, was 5-for-17 (.298) with two RBIs and a run in the series. … Brady Shoemaker, who fractured his right thumb May 24, was activated from the disabled list. He singled up the middle on the first pitch of his first at-bat. He was hitting .308 with five homers and 24 RBIs when he injured the thumb scooping a throw out of the dirt at first base. Vinny Rottino, who had been switched to first, was back behind the plate for the first time since May 12 — a span of 45 games.
Wednesday’s game: Zephyrs at Express
WHEN: 7:05 p.m.
WHERE: Dell Diamond, Round Rock, Texas
PROBABLE PITCHERS: Zephyrs RHP Andre Rienzo (2-4, 2.63 ERA) vs. TBA
RADIO: WMTI-FM, 106.1