With just four games left in the season every game is huge. Luckily for the Cubs, they have big-game Jon Lester. Jon delivered with his arm, his bat, and his legs in a very important shutout win.
The Pirates loaded the bases with one out in the 1st inning, but Lester got a strikeout of Jose Osuna and a Josh Harrison grounder to escape. Kyle Schwarber reached on a pop-up single no one seemed to want in the 2nd. Ian Happ followed with a single and both scored when David Bote tripled on a ground ball down the third base line.
The Cubs added an insurance run in the 4th against Trevor Williams. Willson Contreras doubled but got thrown out at home when Lester singled. Jonny would get to second and eventually to the plate on a Daniel Murphy single to make it 3-0.
Steve Cishek replaced the starter after six innings and pitched a clean 7th. Carl Edwards walked a batter and another reached on an error by Bote at third to open the 8th. Francisco Cervelli finally ran out of magic, however, hitting into a double play that fizzled the rally. Jesse Chavez closed out the 9th for the shutout. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Won
Lester was able to overcome early struggles to keep the Pirates off the board. Then the bullpen was much better than Wednesday’s debacle and was able to preserve the win.
Things were getting tense in the top of the 8th, Edwards was struggling and the tying run was up. Cervelli had killed the Cubs all year, getting him to bounce into a 6-4-3 was huge. Osuna flew out to end the inning and hopefully some confidence returned for Carl.
Stats That Matter
- Lester had control issues but battled through: 6 IP, 0 R. 3 H, 3 K, and 4 BB. The four walks were an issue, not surrendering many hits helped limit the damage. Jon finished the year with 18 wins and an impressive 3.32 ERA.
- Ian Happ had two hits and a walk and has reached base six times the last two games.
- Bote walked in addition to his triple. He strikes out a lot, when he does hit the ball, it’s hit hard.
The Cubs reduced their magic number to three and have a one game lead over the idle Brewers. If they can sweep the Cardinals or win two of three, combined with a Milwaukee loss, they get the division. St. Louis is still vying for a playoff spot, so they won’t roll over.
Game one of the final series of the season is Friday at 1:20 pm CT. Kyle Hendricks faces off against Adam Wainwright, ESPN and ABC-7 have television coverage.