Chicago Cubs: Pitching favors North Siders with Jon Lester on the mound
By Jake Misener
Coming off a game in which he hit his first career homer and struck out the 2000th batter of his career, Jon Lester leads the Chicago Cubs against the Washington Nationals on Sunday.
After dropping the opener, the Chicago Cubs came back to even this weekend series with a 7-4 win Saturday afternoon. Now, the reigning World Series champs look to take the rubber match against Dusty Baker and the Washington Nationals.
Chicago (58-51) clings to a precarious half-game lead in the National League Central. A series win against the Nationals would be a big step forward for the club, who has capitalized on a weaker strength of schedule in recent weeks. To do that, they need a strong start from Lester, who, at least on paper, has the edge in Sunday’s matinee finale.
The Nationals counter with right-hander Erick Fedde, who makes just the second big-league appearance of his career. With less than 90 pitches under his belt, Washington’s #3 prospect struggled in his debut against the Rockies. Colorado roughed him up for seven runs over four innings.
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Washington (64-44) is rolling toward another National League East crown. Thankfully for the Cubs, the three-headed monster of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez didn’t pitch this weekend. From a fan’s perspective, you expect a series win. It’s on Lester to make that happen.
Of course, he’ll be pitching to his battery mate Willson Contreras, who has been white-hot since the break. He played left field Saturday to keep his bat in the lineup – and with good reason. In the second-half, Contreras is batting .338 with eight homers and 27 runs batted in. On several occasions, he has single-handedly propelled the Cubs to victory. Don’t be surprised if he plays a critical role in Sunday’s outcome, as well.
Chicago heads west to open a three-game set against the San Francisco Giants Monday night.
Jake Arrieta (10-8, 3.88) takes the ball in the opener against left-hander Matt Moore (3-11, 5.80).