Winners in three of their last four games, the Cubs came into tonight’s contest in Pittsburgh looking to exhibit continuity on the field to gain ground in the NL Central race. Jon Lester, arguably the Cubs’ best and most consistent starter thus far, took the mound for his 11th start.
He was able to limit the damage to just four earned runs, while the bullpen was able to hang on for the remainder of the game. The offense came out in full force to give Lester the needed run support, allowing him to secure his fifth win on the season (Box Score).
Why the Cubs Won
The offense came out on fire for a third straight game. Over their last three, they have put up 8, 7, and 8 runs, respectively. Coming into this game, the Cubs had scored the second most runs in the National League (263) and fifth most in all of MLB. This is an encouraging trend, especially since the starting rotation hasn’t reached its highly touted potential thus far.
A three-run 7th inning gave the Cubs a 6-4 lead after trailing 4-2 at one point. The inning was kick-started by an Anthony Rizzo home run that was reviewed for fan interference before being upheld. Ian Happ and Jason Heyward followed with back-to-back RBI hits to pad the lead, though they’d add more insurance runs later on.
Stats That Matter
- Heyward went 3-for-5 with an RBI single in the top of the 7th inning. Heyward has appeared to be putting together some quality at-bats over the past few games, which is pleasing after his below-average start to the season (.222/.306/.350 with a 80 wRC+ coming into today).
- Lester put together a solid outing this evening, despite how four earned runs may look in the box score. He was able to grind out six innings while notching six strikeouts and not issuing a single walk. Following this start, Lester’s ERA sits at an eye-opening 2.71 on the season.
- Kyle Schwarber launched a line drive two-run home run in the top of the 8th inning to give the Cubs an 8-4 lead. Per Christopher Kamka, Schwarber has 38 homers over his last 162 games.
- Once again, the bullpen held the game down. Carl Edwards Jr. and Steve Cishek threw two scoreless innings while Brian Duensing and Brandon Morrow provided a little anxiety in the 9th inning, allowing two runs (both charged to Duensing).
The offense paved the way to a third straight victory following a solid start from Lester. Rizzo appears to finally be getting on track offensively, which should help carry the offense moving forward. The Cubs have a tough stretch of games in the coming weeks (Mets, Phillies, Pirates, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers) and will need to display this type of offensive consistency to regain first place in the division.
The Cubs prepare to face the Pirates in the final game of this three game set Wednesday evening. Kyle Hendricks will square off against Joe Musgrove with the first pitch scheduled for 6:05pm CT. The game can be viewed on NBC Sports Chicago.