There was some wonder after Sunday’s victory over the Washington Nationals whether the Chicago Cubs (14-9) even wanted a day off. After three wins in a row, two of them in extra innings, it appeared as though they were finally meshing as a team. That continued on Tuesday with a win against the San Diego Padres (11-11) back at Wrigley Field, via MLB The Show 20.
Jon Lester took the mound for the Cubs and was impressive despite a pitching line that was less than desirable. He ultimately went 6 2/3 innings, allowing four earned runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out eight batters.
The Padres opened the scoring in the 2nd inning when first baseman Josh Naylor hit a one-out solo homer off of Lester to go up 1-0. But the Cubs would respond in the 3rd when Ian Happ hit a solo shot of his own off of Padres starter Dinelson Lamet, driving the ball to deep right field to tie the game. In the 4th, a Jason Heyward two-run home run to right field followed a walk to Willson Contreras, putting the Cubs ahead 3-1.
Lamet went six innings, allowing just those three runs on five hits and three walks while striking out eight Cubs batters. Lester allowed just the one run through his first six innings, which prompted manager David Ross to send him back out for the 7th. This is where the Cubs got into trouble.
Lester was able to get the first two outs without a problem, but walked Jurickson Profar on a 3-2 pitch that appeared to be a very borderline strike. Franchy Cordero followed with an RBI double, then Juan Lagares hit an infield single and suddenly Lester was running out of gas.
Ross went to the mound and brought in right-hander Jeremy Jeffress to replace Lester, who was visibly upset. As he walked to the dugout, the lefty shouted some choice words at the home plate umpire, who responded in kind but did not eject Lester from the game.
Jeffress quickly got Wil Myers down 0-2, but left a fastball over the middle of the plate for an RBI single to center field to tie the game. Manny Machado came to the plate with two still on base and two out and clubbed one high and deep to center field that was just out of the reach of Happ, banging off the wall for a double that scored both runners.
But the Cubs were able to come back. San Diego went to reliable right-hander Emilio Pagán for the 8th inning, but he didn’t have his best stuff. Kyle Schwarber reached on a one-out infield single and scored on an RBI triple into the right field corner by Contreras, cutting the lead to 5-4. Heyward lifted a fly ball to left that was just deep enough to score Contreras from third, tying the game. With two outs, David Bote came to the plate to play the role of the hero.
Bote connected for a solo homer, high and deep down the left field line. It was his fourth home run of the season so far and it gave the Cubs a 6-5 lead heading into the 9th. Ross went once again to his reliable closer, Craig Kimbrel, who had worked in five consecutive games heading into Monday’s off-day. Kimbrel finished off the game without issue for his ninth save in 10 chances.
Notes: Ross admitted after the game that his use of Kimbrel recently has been excessive, and committed to giving the right-hander another day off on Wednesday, regardless of the score. The manager also would prefer to stay away from using Kimbrel on Thursday, but said that he was given the green light to put him on the mound if necessary … Recently recalled left-hander and former No. 2 overall pick Danny Hultzen picked up the win in relief, the first of his major league career.
Contreras – 2-for-3, BB, 3B, RBI, 2 R
Heyward – 1-for-3, HR, 3 RBI
Bote – 1-for-4, HR, RBI
Happ – 1-for-4, HR, RBI
Naylor – 1-for-4, HR, RBI
Myers – 2-for-5, 2B, RBI
Machado – 2-for-5, 2B, 2 RBI|
Cordero – 1-for-2, 2B, RBI
Winning Pitcher – Hultzen (1-0)
Losing Pitcher – Pagán (0-1)
Save – Kimbrel (9)
Home Runs – Heyward (4), Bote (4), Happ (3), Naylor (3)