Jon Lester did it all for the Chicago Cubs on Saturday afternoon, going 2-for-3 with a home run while tossing six quality innings in a lopsided victory.
Hi. My name is Big Jon and I hit dingers.
But, really, though. For a guy who couldn’t hit a lick back in 2015, Chicago Cubs hurler Jon Lester has turned himself into quite the threat at the dish. Don’t believe me? Just ask the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff after Saturday’s 10-4 loss – they can attest to Lester’s skill with the lumber.
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After contributing a run-scoring single as part of a seven-run first that saw Chicago send 11 men to the plate, the 35-year-old connected on an opposite-field blast, his first of the season.
"“Obviously, over here [in the National League] it’s a little bit more important,” Lester told MLB.com. “Like I’ve said before, I take a little bit more pride in my at-bats since I’ve been over here. Just try to give quality at-bats. I was able to square two of them up today.”"
His work with the bat stole the show on Saturday, but he once again gave manager Joe Maddon a quality outing, allowing just three runs over 6 2/3 innings of work in front of a packed Wrigley Field crowd. He did not walk a batter and struck out six before giving way to the bullpen.
We’ve seen Lester have his fair share of ups and downs this year, but he’s settled in nicely of late. Chicago has won six of his last eight starts – and he hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs since June 13. Seeing the three-time World Series champ follow up Yu Darvish‘s masterpiece from Friday with a solid effort of his own is certainly promising – especially as Cole Hamels continues to work his way back from injury.
Cubs’ offensive execution once again impresses
On the heels of a 3-for-6 performance with runners in scoring position Friday, Cubs hitters put up a strong 5-for-11 showing on Saturday. Of course, the team’s seven-run first inning had a lot to do with that – Chicago sent 11 men to the plate, chasing Jordan Lyles before the book closed on the frame.
The team struck out nine times, but drew a half-dozen walks, as well. Leadoff man Kyle Schwarber walked twice and collected a pair of hits as he looks to prove he’s the table setter both Maddon and the Cubs’ front office believe him to be here in the second half.
Five Cubs hitters had two or more hits, including Lester, Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Jason Heyward. The latter led the team with a trio of knocks, raising his average on the year to .275. Pairing that with his stellar work in right field, it’s hard to not consider the veteran outfielder one of the most valuable players on this team so far in 2019.
Looking to close it out on Sunday
The win on Saturday guaranteed the Cubs their first series win in a month. Despite that stretch, the team enters Sunday 1 1/2 games up on Milwaukee in the National League Central. Over their last 10 ballgames, no NL Central club has played better than .500 ball – giving Chicago a prime opportunity to open up a little breathing room.
To do that, they’ll turn to left-hander Jose Quintana on Sunday’s matinee finale. The southpaw has been pretty mediocre this year, pitching to a 4.19 ERA and 1.347 WHIP in 17 starts and one relief appearance. Let’s hope he can feed of the work of Darvish and Lester and turn in a gem to sweep the Bucs out of the Windy City.