Cubs record: 46-20, 1st NL Central, (11.5 games up)
W: Jon Lester
L: Jonathon Niese
S: Hector Rondon (12)
MVP: Baez, Rizzo, Bryant, Ross — group hug!
Saturday nights at Wrigley Field always feel special. This game was no exception as the Cubs came out on top in an intense contest against a fierce division foe, even if the Pirates aren’t threatening in the standings. It was a beautiful night at the ballpark and the game was exciting from start to finish.
Single tallies took center stage as both teams paired small-ball with solo shots to score their runs one at a time. Lester’s stuff wasn’t excellent tonight, but he pitched a great game. It didn’t start that way, though, as he gave up a leadoff home run to Jordy Mercer. Rizzo answered in the bottom of the 2nd with a solo blast of his own and then Jordy Mercer doubled to lead off the top of the third and eventually came around to score.
In the top of the 4th, Lester loaded the bases with no outs, but boy did he battle. After striking out the next two batters, he hit his game-nemesis Mercer to plate one run before getting out of the inning with the least amount of damage possible.
The bottom of the 4th, Baez decided to show the world why he’s a major league baseball player. After grounding into a fielder’s choice by beating out a double play, he got caught in a pickle where he ended up safe at second thanks to some insane acrobatics. Later, he took third in a ball in the dirt that can barely be classified as getting away from the catcher and then scored on a squeeze bunt by David Ross. After a clean fifth from Lester, Bryant K-boomed a ball over the left-field bleachers to tie the game at three apiece.
Grandpa Ross got in on the action in the bottom of the sixth to give the Cubs the lead with a monster home run, and after that, it was on to the bullpen. Strop, Wood, and Rondon closed the door on the Pirates and sealed the victory in front of a packed house.
Talk about a team effort, eh? Solo shots from Bryant, Rizzo, and Ross. Incredible effort by Baez on the basepaths and on the field, Addison’s glove, Almora steps in for an injured Fowler and Lester battles on the mound all night long and the bullpen picks up the back end. Great team win and a really fun night of Cubs baseball.
Lester struggled, but he had a lot of issues with the strike zone tonight and Ross felt the same way. Both yapped and jawed at the home plate umpire on multiple occasions, but thankfully neither was ejected. It’s tough to see the inside of the plate so tight when Lester is on the mound, but it didn’t matter.
Dexter Fowler had to exit the game in the bottom of the first inning after tweaking his hamstring while running to first. There hasn’t been any word on the severity of the injury, but hopefully, it isn’t serious and Fowler can quickly return to the club.
The Cubs get their first look at the Pirates “next big thing” in Jameson Taillon during tomorrow’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast on ESPN. Taking the mound for the North Siders is Kyle Hendricks, who is 3-1 with a 1.99 ERA this season at Wrigley Field. A Cubs win essentially eliminates the Pirates from winning the division, barring a miraculous comeback (they might be already, honestly). With the U.S. Open, Game 7 of the NBA Final, the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones sixth season and Father’s Day festivities, don’t forget to check in on the Cubbies and be sure to give your dad a hug.