Cubs Record: 56-36 (1st in NL Central)
W: Jon Lester (10-4, 2.89)
L: Steven Matz (7-6, 3.56)
S: Hector Rondon (16)
MVP: Jon Lester
Fresh off the heels of a series win over the Texas Rangers, the Cubs welcomed the Mets to Wrigley Field looking to get some revenge after suffering a four-game sweep at New York earlier this month.
After trading zeros through the first two and a half innings, Chicago was the first to get on the scoreboard thanks to an impressive at-bat by Anthony Rizzo.
Things got started innocently enough, as Javy Baez hit a one-out single to left. Kris Bryant was subsequently hit by a pitch, putting men at first and second for Rizzo. After fighting off several pitches, Rizzo deposited a 2-2 pitch into the right field bleachers for his 22nd home run, giving the Cubs a 3-0 lead.
While the home run itself was no doubt impressive (it went 423 feet with an exit velocity of 107 MPH), the entirety of the at-bat was a thing of beauty. Rizzo battled throughout the plate appearance, spoiling several quality pitches from Steven Matz before crushing a changeup on pitch number 10.
The Cubs added on another run in the bottom of the 6th thanks to some small ball. Matt Szczur led off the inning with a double to left. After a couple of unsuccessful sacrifice bunt attempts, Albert Almora Jr. still succeeded in advancing the runner with a ground out to second. David Ross followed up with a sacrifice fly to center, pushing Chicago’s cushion to 4-0.
The Mets were able to push a run across in the top of the 7th on a Wilmer Flores solo home run, his ninth of the season and third against the Cubs in 2016.
The Cubs would get that run back in the bottom of the 8th, however. Szczur hit a two-out double and came home to score on an Almora single and Yoenis Cespedes error, pushing the lead to 5-1.
New York threatened in the top of the ninth against Carl Edwards Jr., but Hector Rondon was able to record the final two outs to wrap up the victory.
I wouldn’t say Jon Lester needed the All-Star break more than any other Chicago starting pitcher. After all, other than Kyle Hendricks, the entire rotation was struggling. However, I do think it’s safe to say he could definitely use a breather.
In his final two starts before the break, Lester was not locating his pitches and it showed in the results: 4 1/3 innings pitched, 13 hits, four walks and 13 earned runs. Included in those two starts was a clunker against the Mets in which Lester had the shortest outing of his career (1 1/3 innings).
What we saw on Monday was more in line with the Lester we were spoiled with in June when he was named the NL Pitcher of the Month.
Although he struggled a bit with his command early, the veteran lefty got on track and shut down the New York offense, allowing just one run on four hits and three walks while striking out three over 7 2/3 strong innings.
In addition to Lester, I want to once again mention that Rizzo at-bat in the 3rd. Simply fantastic.
There really wasn’t anything too bad about this game from the Cubs’ standpoint. I suppose I could go with Edwards struggling in his appearance, which forced Rondon to enter a game in which he shouldn’t have been needed, but that would be stretching it. After all, Edwards wasn’t really that bad; his two hits allowed were a single to center and a single that beat the shift to make it to left field.
While it didn’t really matter in the end, I think the Cubs have now filled their quota of Flores home runs this season. No more, please.
The Cubs and Mets will go back at it again Tuesday night at 6:05 p.m. (CST) in game two at Wrigley Field. Jake Arrieta (12-4, 2.68) will take the mound for Chicago looking to turn things around after struggling in his previous three starts (16 1/3 innings, 15 ER, 21 H, 8 BB). New York will counter with right-hander Noah Syndergaard (9-4, 2.56).