The Chicago Cubs (17-11) came into the series finale against the Philadelphia Phillies (18-10) with a chance to win two of three, which would mean winning six of their last seven series. Thanks to a dominating pitching performance by Jon Lester and a big swing by Jason Heyward, they were able to do just that, via MLB The Show 20.
The Sunday afternoon game had been a highly anticipated matchup all week, pitting Lester against his former teammate Jake Arrieta. The Phillies right-hander was briefly one of the two or three best pitchers in the game during his time with the Cubs, winning the NL Cy Young award in 2015 and picking up two crucial victories in the 2016 World Series.
Early on, this one looked like it might be an epic pitching duel. The Cubs loaded the bases in the bottom of the 1st with one out, but Arrieta was able to induce a double-play grounder off the bat of Willson Contreras. The Cubs appeared to have missed their big opportunity, as their bats went quiet until the 5th inning.
Arrieta walked Steven Souza Jr. to start that inning and Jason Kipnis was able to move the runner to second base with a groundout. Lester bunted Souza over to third with two outs and Kris Bryant slapped a single between the first and second basemen to put the Cubs ahead 1-0.
Lester was nearly impossible for Philadelphia hit and he was never really in trouble during his six innings of work, allowing just three hits and no walks while striking out five. The left-hander said after the game that the matchup against Arrieta brought a little extra adrenaline and possibly some extra focus on the mound.
Eventually, the Cubs did break through offensively. With one out in the 6th, Arrieta hit Contreras with an 0-2 breaking ball and Ian Happ worked a 10-pitch walk to put runners on first and second. After Souza grounded out and moved the runners to second and third, the Phillies chose to intentionally walk Kipnis to force the Cubs to make a decision on Lester, who had thrown only 82 pitches.
David Ross went to Jason Heyward off the bench and it ended up being a pivotal move for Chicago. Heyward worked a 2-2 count before driving a fastball from Arrieta to deep right-center field, sending it over the fence for a grand slam.
Suddenly, the Cubs were up 5-0 and Arrieta’s day was done. He went 5 2/3 innings, surrendering five earned runs on five hits and as many walk while striking out just one. Nick Pivetta came in and got the final out of the inning by striking out Bryant.
The Phillies attempted a comeback against the Cubs’ leaky bullpen, but they never did come close to tying the game. Jeremy Jeffress pitched two innings in relief and allowed four hits, including a two-run homer by left fielder Jay Bruce to make it a 5-2 ballgame. The Cubs added another run in the 8th on an RBI double by Contreras to go ahead 6-2, then Rowan Wick pitched a clean 9th inning to close out the win.
Heyward – 1-for-1, HR, 4 RBI
Rizzo – 3-for-4, 2B, R
Contreras – 1-for-3, 2B, R, RBI
Lester – 6 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 0 ER, 5 K
Bruce – 3-for-4, HR, 2 RBI
Realmuto – 1-for-4, 2B, R
Winning Pitcher – Lester (2-2)
Losing Pitcher – Arrieta (2-2)
Save – none
Home Runs – Heyward (7), Bruce (3)
Reds – 17-10
Cubs – 17-11
Brewers – 15-13
Cardinals – 12-16
Pirates – 9-19