Cubs Record: 20-6 (1st in NL Central)
W: Jon Lester (3-1)
L: Juan Nicasio (3-3)
MVP: Jon Lester 5 2/3 IP, 0 R, 8 H, 2 BB, 5 K
Shiver me timbers, the Cubs just swept the Pirates in Pittsburgh!
The Cubs put together a 6-2 victory behind Jon Lester, who pitched well and worked his way out of a few jams. As we’ve seen all season, the offense continued burning through opposing starting pitchers as they knocked Pirates starter Juan Nicasio out after just 4 1/3 innings. He was already over 100 pitches at that point.
The big knock came in the top of the third inning when Ben Zobrist drilled the first pitch he saw to the seats in right center field for a three-run home run. The Cubs never looked back after that point but they did add on a few runs throughout the game.
Anthony Rizzo led off the 5th inning with a double and Javier Baez came up one out later and smacked a ground rule double down the left field line, plating Rizzo and putting the Cubs up 4-0.
Speaking of Rizzo, he launched his 9th home run of the year in the top of the 7th inning to put the Cubs up by five.
The Pirates don’t like going down quietly so they sent Matt Joyce out to pinch-hit in their half of the 7th. He belted a two-run shot to bring the Pirates to within three. Baez decided he wanted to give the Cubs a bit of extra cushion in the 9th, so he drove in a run with an RBI ground out making it 6-2.
Lester pitched 5 2/3 innings of shutout baseball but the scenario could have been way different. Lester found himself in a big jam in the 4th when he loaded the bases with nobody out. He then proceeded to retire the next three men he faced in order to end the scoring threat. He also worked himself out of a first and third, one out jam in the 5th without allowing any damage. The lefty only had five strikeouts and he used two in each of those innings to get himself out of trouble and keep his team in the game. After today’s game his ERA stands at a very pretty 1.58.
Rizzo’s had himself quite a series. He had three hits today and scored three runs finishing the three-game set 7-14 with five doubles and a homer. His average is making a steady climb and now stands at .260 and he is tied for third in the Majors for most home runs with nine. As of right now, Rizzo has a league-leading 26 RBI.
Baez started the season on the disabled list but has been a fireball since he returned. He’s made some absolutely sizzling defensive plays in this series but he’s also been good at the plate. He drove in two runs today, one on a ground out and one on a ground-rule double.
Despite scoring two runs on a pinch-hit home run by Matt Joyce in the 7th, the Pirates squandered every other scoring chance they had. They were able to load the bases on two singles and a walk against Jon Lester in the 4th, but walked away empty handed. They let more chances slip through their fingers in the 5th when they had two men on with only one out. Their downfall in the series was certainly not taking advantage of scoring chances.
David Ross is a 39-year-old who may look like a grandpa, but he can play with the best of them. He threw this bullet to Rizzo at first to pick off Sean Rodriguez. Ross led the league in the pick-offs last season and it’s just ugly to watch every time when you’re the opposing team.
The Cubs head home to host the Nationals for four games. No matter what happens in this series, it’s going to be fun one. We’re going to see Anthony Rizzo and Bryce Harper go head-to-head. Harper, who is arguably the best player in baseball will be facing the best team in baseball in their home field. Tomorrow’s pitching match up will be Kyle Hendricks against Joe Ross, the younger brother of Tyson Ross. In his last outing, Hendricks held the Milwaukee Brewers to two hits over five innings. The Cubs have their work cut out for them against Ross, who held the Cardinals to one run in six innings his last time out and is 3-0 with an ERA under 1.00. The game will begin at 7:05 p.m. Central Time and will be televised on CSN.