Chicago Cubs extend lead in NL Central with win over Cincinnati

(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /

Although the offense remained stagnant, starting pitching once again stole the show as the Chicago Cubs won their third-straight contest on Saturday.

At a certain point, the bats have to get going. It’s that simple. Asking the pitching staff to carry the load as it has been for much of the last month is unreasonable and, simply, unrealistic. But, for the time being, the Chicago Cubs are finding ways to win – which is all that matters at the end of the day.

Chicago picked up its 87th win of the year on Saturday via a 1-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. Their magic number dropped to 12 as both the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals lost their respective matchups. Per Fangraphs, the win (combined with those losses) pushed the Cubs’ odds at winning the division back up to 87 percent.

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So, how did they do it? Jon Lester took the team, put them on his back and did what you need a veteran ace to do – dominate.

Despite being at over 100 pitches after six innings, the southpaw headed back out to the mound for a seventh inning and silenced the Cincinnati offense, capping off a masterful afternoon. Lester struck out a season-high nine and allowed just two knocks as the Cubs guaranteed themselves a series win this weekend.

Offensively, Willson Contreras drove in the only run – which, as noted, is hardly encouraging. Chicago struck out 13 times on the afternoon, led by Kris Bryant‘s 0-for-4 with four Ks. The former MVP hasn’t been himself since returning from the disabled list, leaving a big hole in the lineup.

More positive news, though – Brandon Morrow expects to return at some point during this week’s series against the Diamondbacks in Arizona. With Pedro Strop done for the regular season, getting their closer back is huge – no matter what role he serves in down the stretch.

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What’s Next

Chicago and Cincinnati conclude their three-game weekend series this afternoon at Wrigley Field. Then, the Cubs hit the road – flying out west for a series in Phoenix against the Arizona Diamondbacks.