With two games to go before the All-Star break, the Chicago Cubs are trying to protect what little cushion they have left in the NL Central, The Pittsburgh Pirates, however, have something else in mind.
Jon Lester (9-4, 2.67 ERA) didn’t look sharp on the mound tonight, after suffering his worst outing of this season against the New York Mets in his last start. He only recorded four outs, allowing eight earned runs on nine hits, in the shortest start of his storied career.
Tonight Lester was optimistically better. He threw three innings, giving up four hits, five runs, and three walks while only striking out three. In his last two starts, Lester has totaled 4 1/3 innings of work, giving up 13 runs. His ERA has risen from 2.03 on June 28th to 3.01 after Saturday’s loss.
Lester was coarse and concise when reporters asked what he thought about his performance. “Terrible. Unacceptable,” he said. “[it’s] a letdown.”
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The Cubs (52-34) were hoping to get Adam Warren (3-2, 5.79 ERA) in a groove before the break, but he gave up seven runs in his 1 1/3 innings of relief and was stuck with the loss.
In the bottom of the fifth, Pirates (46-42) rookie Josh Bell blasted a grand slam off of Warren to blow the game open. Jordy Mercer followed Bell with a solo shot of his own. Both Andrew McCutchen and Sean Rodriguez added homers of their own in the contest. By the end of the sixth inning, the Pirates held the final lead at 12-6
The Cubs have now given up 30 home runs in their last 20 games, the same amount they gave up in their first 67 contests.
Offense has been the redeeming factor for the Cubs thus far. Anthony Rizzo continued his hot hitting by going 4-for-5 with a triple. Ben Zobrist punished the first pitch he saw from Chad Kuhl (1-0, 4.09 ERA) for a two-run homer and added another RBI in the sixth on a fielder’s choice.
The Chicago Cubs play one more game tomorrow afternoon before a much needed All-Star break. They will enter the break third in the MLB in runs and first in team ERA, though those stats feel pretty empty.
They’ve seen a 12 game lead in the division dwindle to just 6.5 before Sunday’s series finale with the Pirates. By now, I’m sure most of the Cubs players are in the clubhouse doing the rain dance with Munenori Kawasaki.