After dropping Saturday’s game by a 4-2 final, the Chicago Cubs have to win the series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates in order to finish the first half at the .500 mark.
At this point, you’re almost thankful only one Chicago Cubs player will take part in All-Star Week festivities in Miami. Closer Wade Davis earned a nod – the only member of the reigning World Series champs to do so. But before the team can enjoy some time off, they have one more task: win Sunday or avoid opening the second half two games below .500.
Chicago (43-44) pulled out a win Friday, thanks to a big game from Kris Bryant and outstanding work from the bullpen. On Saturday, though, the team dropped a 4-2 contest – dropping them back below water record-wise.
There were promising notes, though. Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ connected on back-to-back homers Saturday. Schwarber’s shot marked his first since returning from Triple-A Iowa earlier in the week. Happ continues to show impressive power in his first taste of big-league action.
Sunday features a marquee pitching matchup. Lester, a three-time World Series champion, faces promising young right-hander Jameson Taillon.
The hard-throwing righty enters play with a 2.73 ERA this year and will make the fifth start of his career against the Cubs. His last time out, he set a career-high in strikeouts.
Lester, meanwhile, had one bad inning that proved to be his unraveling in his last start. He’s been one of the more consistent options this season, but is far from putting up the numbers he did in 2016.
But, at the end of the day, if you’re a Cubs fan, this is the guy you want on the hill to close out the first half.
Joe Maddon changes up the lineup a bit Sunday, with Jon Jay back in center field leading off. Ian Happ will play second and bat cleanup, following Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
Chicago opens its second-half schedule Friday on the road in Baltimore.
First pitch is at 6:05 p.m. CT from Camden Yards. Neither team has announced its starting pitcher for the opener.