Chicago Cubs: Jon Lester hits first homer, notches 2,000th career strikeout
By Jake Misener
In Chicago Cubs’ lore, it will be known as the Jon Lester game. The lefty notched his 2,000th career K and hit his first career homer Tuesday night in a lopsided win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He’d come close several times before. But on Tuesday, Chicago Cubs’ ace Jon Lester hit his first career homer – a bullet into the left-center field seats. With a nine-strikeout performance, the southpaw also notched the 2,000th K of his big-league career.
Not a bad night at the ole’ office.
Lester pitched four-plus frames, but failed to make it through five, meaning he did not qualify for the win. Still, he struck out nine on the night, allowing three earned runs on five hits. He also walked a trio of Arizona hitters.
The sad thing? Looking at the box score, Lester isn’t going to be what you noticed. It’s the crooked number alongside the Cubs’ run total: 15 in all.
Chicago (57-48) continues to win in the second half. The Cubs, now an underdog in the NL playoff race after the Dodgers and Nationals made big deadline moves, hope to upset the table come October. But, for now, it’s one game at a time – an approach that seems to be working extraordinarily well.
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The bats backed Lester early and often with runs.
Outfielder Albert Almora got things started in the first against Patrick Corbin. With the bases loaded and one away, he grounded a ball up the middle, scoring Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant to open the scoring.
Ian Happ launched his 14th homer of the year and Anthony Rizzo added his team-leading 25th as the Cubs racked up eight runs in the first three frames of the ballgame. The Chicago first baseman is just the third left-handed bat in franchise history with four 25-home seasons.
He later added another blow, his 26th of the year, to cap the Cubs’ scoring and make it a 16-3 contest.
Of course, the big blow (at least for Cubs fans) – came in the third via Lester.
Bullpen, bats put in heavy work
With Lester failing to get through five, Joe Maddon leaned heavily upon his bullpen in Tuesday’s series opener. Hector Rondon tossed 1 2/3 innings, allowing one inherited runner to score on a groundout.
He gave way in the sixth to left-hander Brian Duensing. And that’s about when the floodgates opened. Chicago scored seven times in the bottom of the sixth. An error by Adam Rosales allowed the first run of the inning to score. Willson Contreras followed with a two-run double to push the advantage to 11-3.
After Almora plated another run with a groundout, Javier Baez launched a three-run bomb to center field, making it a 15-3 Cubs’ lead. The homer tied his single-season career-high of 14 long-balls.
Next: Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees all deadline winners this week
Chicago and Arizona continue their three-game set Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.
Jake Arrieta (10-7, 4.03) takes the ball for the Cubs. Zack Godley (4-4, 4.33) starts for the Diamondbacks. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. CT.