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Chicago Cubs lead down to six and a half games

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Jul 9, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester (34) wipes his face on the mound against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the second inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 9, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester (34) wipes his face on the mound against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the second inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Six and a half games. That is the lead the Chicago Cubs are left with after suffering their fifth straight loss on Saturday.

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After going 4-0 last month with a 1.41 ERA and being named the National League pitcher of the month for June, Lester has given up 13 runs the last 4 1/3 innings throughout his last two starts.

“We all go through times where, just like hitters, you go through slumps,”

Lester told reporters after the game.

“The last two starts were obviously null and void for me. The offense gives me two runs early and gives me runs again and I give them right back. It’s obviously a letdown not only for myself but for the team. We’ll be better.”

Lester is not the only pitcher in the Cubs rotation struggling of late. There has yet to be a quality start by a Chicago pitcher this month, a big part of the cubbies dropping nine of their last 10 games. During the 10 game stretch, the starting pitchers have an ERA of 8.18, allowing 43 runs throughout 47 1/3 innings.

The situation at hand is not uncharted territory for Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon. During the 2008 season, while he was still the manager of the Rays, the team struggled, losing their last seven games before the All-Star break. They went on to play in the World Series that same season.

“We got off to such a wonderful start. You’d take this kind of a lead going into the break any day of the week. It just happened, and there are reasons why it’s happened. You don’t lament those reasons, you deal with it, and keep going out and playing hard like we did and eventually we’ll get back on a nice streak,” Maddon told reporters.

Despite the loss, the Cubs did show some life with the wood. Anthony Rizzo had four hits and was a home run away from hitting for the cycle. The effort raised his batting average to .290. Jason Heyward also got involved from the batter’s box with 3 hits. Throughout the last four games, he went 8 for 17 and has also raised his batting average for the season to .247.

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As of Sunday morning, the Cubs are one of four division leaders with a six and a half game lead in the majors, and there isn’t a team with a larger lead. After the start the cubbies had to the season, it’s hard to consider them as being anywhere near average. The way the last two weeks have gone, I guess they are lucky to be in that category. A win today would be something the Cubs could build on. Just seems like that has been said too many times during the last seven days.

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