The Chicago Cubs (72-41) began a four-game series at Wrigley Field against divisional rival the St. Louis Cardinals (60-52) Thursday night. Jon Lester faced off against Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez in the series opener.
The Cubs brought a nine-game winning streak and the league’s best home record (39-17) to the ballpark tonight. Lester is 6-2 with a 1.99 ERA at Wrigley this year and 8-0 with a 2.55 ERA during night games.
On a side note, the Cardinals are the only team to beat the Cubs in a series at Wrigley this year, sweeping three games back in June.
Lester (12-4, 2.93 ERA) and Martinez (10-7, 3.29 ERA) both went six innings, giving up two and three runs respectively. Lester continued his post-All-Star dominance, where he is 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA, though neither starter factored into the decision.
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Opponents are hitting .070/.116/.283 with runners in scoring position and less than two outs against Lester at Wrigley this season. The Cardinals collected three two-out singles in the top of the first to take the early lead. Brandon Moss added a home run in the sixth to extend the Cardinals lead to 2-0.
The Cubs offense struggled to figure out Martinez early. Their first hit came in the fourth inning off of an Anthony Rizzo triple to right and finished the game 3-18 with RISP. Kris Bryant continued to struggle against the changeup, striking out twice on the pitch.
The turning point of the game came in the bottom of the sixth inning when Chris Coghlan singled in two tying runs after being denied time by the home plate umpire. David Ross followed with a squeeze bunt to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead.
This game was won on pitching and defense, two categories that the Cubs lead the league in. Cubs relievers combined for five innings pitched with no runs given up, adding to their league-leading ERA and WHIP.
Chicago currently has a defensive efficiency rating of .730 and are +55 in DRS. Coghlan and Addison Russell combined on a relay play in the seventh to nail Matt Carpenter at the plate, showing just how good the club has been on defense this year.
The Cubs relentless late game pressure loaded the bases in the bottom of the eleventh against Zach Duke, who inevitably walked Rizzo on a close inside pitch to allow the winning run to score. The team now hold a 13 game lead in the division, bringing their magic number to 36.