Chicago Cubs: Jon Lester on hill as Cubs go for series win

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 17: Jon Lester
ATLANTA, GA - JULY 17: Jon Lester /

Jon Lester is on the mound Thursday as the Chicago Cubs look to pick up their fourth win in five games and take the series against the Cincinnati Reds.

On the heels of a late, exciting win Wednesday night, Jon Lester (8-7, 3.99 ERA) gets the ball Thursday for the Chicago Cubs in the series finale against the Cincinnati Reds.

Thursday’s starters

Lester is coming off a loss last Saturday night at the Diamondbacks. It was his third consecutive outing in which he allowed exactly three earned runs. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s been the opposite for Lester against the Reds in 2017.

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In two starts against Cincinnati, Lester has eight earned runs in 11 2/3 innings pitched and has a 6.17 ERA. Chicago won both games.

Opposing Lester will be the former Cub, Scott Feldman (7-7, 4.43 ERA). In his last outing at the Brewers, he allowed three earned runs on seven hits and lasted just four innings. He made his last start against the Cubs June 30 and was very effective.

In that 5-0 win, he lasted seven innings, allowing just two hits in Cincinnati. He also pitched against the Cubs May 17 at Wrigley Field, a game the Cubs won 7-5.

Schwarber/Bryant/Rizzo working

The Cubs might have found some consistency with their lineup and order. Since the All-Star Break, Kyle Schwarber is slashing .256/.370/.538 and has a .908 OPS. In August he’s hitting .278 and has at least one hit in the first three games against the Reds and three walks. His patience at the plate sets him up in front of Kris Bryant.

Bryant has gone hitless his last two games but rides a .368 BA for August into today’s tilt against Cincinnati. Anthony Rizzo is also over .300 for the month and is 6-for-12 against Reds’ pitching so far this series including nine RBI.

That 2-3-4 combo is among the OPS leaders on the team.

What to watch for

Lester enters action with a lefty opponent batting average of .184 against him. Joey Votto hits lefties to the tune of .277 with nine home runs and 23 RBI spanning 119 at-bats. Against Lester, Votto is slashing 276/.300/.448 across 30 plate appearances. He has not homered and has three doubles and three RBI versus the 33-year-old.

Next: Kyle Schwarber showing progression in the field

What’s next

Friday features interleague variety as the Toronto Blue Jays battle the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

The scheduled pitching matchup is Jake Arrieta (12-8, 3.73 ERA) vs J.A. Happ (6-8, 3.63 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 pm C.T.