The undermanned Cubs have been finding ways to win of late. Saturday afternoon saw Jon Lester putting the team on his back just a few days after it had tightened up and forced him to leave his start early. Chicago only needed a single run to earn a third straight victory.
Lester and Reds starter Cody Reed were dominant from the jump. The former only allowed four baserunners to reach in seven sparkling innings while the latter shredded a Cubs lineup sans Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist. Reed came in with a very spotty track record as a starter, but struck out 10 batters in just five innings.
The Northsiders rallied for the only run of the game against Sal Romano in the bottom of the 6th. Javy Baez beat out a ground ball up the middle for an infield hit and advanced to second on a David Bote ground out. The ice-cold Willson Contreras played hero singling past Joey Votto at first to put the Cubs up 1-0.
Justin Wilson took over for Lester and threw a scoreless 8th inning. Joe Maddon went full Tony La Russa after that, using Jesse Chavez, Randy Rosario, and Steve Cishek to secure the shutout win. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Won
Lester did what he does best, pitch a great game in a big spot. The Cubs needed a long start from their ace to protect a beleaguered bullpen and he delivered in a big way.
Billy Hamilton tried to steal third base with one out in the top of the 6th. He was initially called safe, but that was overturned on review. If Hamilton had made it to third he might have scored the go-ahead run. Contreras’ big arm made all the difference as the throw was right on the bag.
Stats That Matter
- Lester showed no ill effects from his back issue last start: 7 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 9 K, and 2 BB. He completely dominated a tough Cincinnati lineup and both singles he allowed were infield hits.
- Contreras had his best game in a long time. He had two hits, the big caught stealing at third, and caught a shutout.
This is the third straight game in which the Cubs gutted out a one-run win. Lester protected the bullpen and the relievers performed very well when they were needed. The division lead will remain at least 1.5 games.
Chicago goes for the three-game sweep Sunday at 1:20pm CT. Jose Quintana has pitched great of late and he faces Luis Castillo in a game televised by ABC-7.