The Chicago Cubs won the series from the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday in front of a national audience. Jon Lester showed he’s far from regression, and Kris Bryant is back.
The Chicago Cubs series finale with the Milwaukee Brewers was on ESPN as part of their Sunday Night Baseball telecast. The last two games of the series were soggy and cold, and for the most part, low scoring. Featuring most likely the Cubs most consistent starters in Jon Lester, the Cubs had to feel good going into Sunday’s game. And after the first inning when the Cubs drew first blood on a ‘pitcher’s night,’ they had to feel even better.
Lester (3-1, 1.16) went 6 2/3 innings, striking out six while allowing just one unearned run. In the fourth, Christian Yelick hit a high flyball to left field. Kyle Schwarber got turned around and made a last-second dive to make the catch. He got his glove on it, but it bounded away. The problem came when he got up and couldn’t locate the ball. Yelich never let off the gas and made it to third, a three-base error. In Schwarbers defense–and I’m not a fan of Alex Rodriguez–he pointed out that the wind and the rain don’t make that an easy play. Still, an error is an error.
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Jesus Aguilar slapped a base hit through the left side, and the game was tied at 1-1. For the Brewers, Jhoulys Chacin pitched a fantastic game of his own, going six innings allowing just one earned run (two total), while striking out four. The conditions favored the pitchers as both were able to keep the other team in check much of the night.
Javier Baez (why not?) gave the Cubs the lead back with a double to right field that scored Kris Bryant from first. (Also, it’s where Bryant played as Anthony Rizzo sat with a stiff back.) It was the 27th opposite field hit for Baez, which leads the majors.
The Cubs’ Lester found himself in a little trouble in the seventh. After a walk to Lorenzo Cain, Yelich singled and Cain advance to third. With two out, Aguilar stepped in with a chance to tie the game. Joe Maddon pulled Lester after throwing 116 pitches and saving the bullpen as best he could after the 15 inning marathon the night before.
Brandon Kintzler, who has worked his way into Maddon’s circle of trust was called on, getting Aguilar to strike out and draw an excited reaction from Lester in the dugout. It was likely for the strikeout, but partly for the fact that Lester is now qualified in innings pitched–and leads the MLB in ERA with 1.16. Regression? Not so far.
With the lead in hand, Bryant capped the scoring off with a two-run home run in the seventh to give the Cubs a 4-1 lead, which Steve Cishek would help nail down in the ninth. But one of the most significant plays may have come from Baez in the sixth. With Aguilar on third, Hernan Perez hit a slow chopper. Baez quickly analyzed that he’d have no chance for a double play and fired home. Willson Contreras tagged Aguilar to prevent the tying run.
The Cubs defense has had its ups and downs this year. While Schwarber committed the three-base error, he did make a nice sliding grab earlier in the game. Bryant filled in admirably for Rizzo, and Baez was being Baez.
The Cubs get a much-needed day off before they head to Cincinnati for a three-game series. After Lester took some pressure off them, the bullpen should be well-rested as they enter the series.