Chicago Cubs fans gave several standing ovations at Wrigley Field on Monday night as Kyle Schwarber and Jon Lester returned to Wrigley Field as members of the Washington Nationals.
Both players were key parts of Chicago’s 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2020 postseason-bound teams . The club’s run to a World Series title would not have been possible without either player. Lester won the co-NLCS MVP and Schwarber slashed .412/.500/.471 in the World Series after coming back from knee surgery.
This marked the first start for Lester at Wrigley as a non-Cub since 2012, and the first-ever game for Schwarber playing a game in Chicago, not as a Cub.
Chicago Cubs: Building up to the return
The hype was building up all day around Wrigleyville. Players and coaches were interviewed, including Schwarber and Lester on Marquee Network, and there were plenty of snapshots of them reuniting with old friends on the field like Anthony Rizzo, David Ross, Willson Contreras, Kris Bryant and others. When Rizzo arrived at the park, he wore a Lester Cubs jersey. He also posted a photo with him and Lester on Instagram from their days in the Red Sox organization. Ian Happ also wore a cowboy hat similar to what Lester wears. Outside Wrigley at Murphy’s Bleachers, the famous sign that always reads fun messages said, “Welcome back Lester & Schwarber”.
Many fans made signs with warm messages for Lester and Scwharber, and there were plenty of jerseys bearing their names on the backs were seen in the stands. As expected, there were tribute videos for the two on the Wrigley Field boards and on the TV broadcast.
Standing ovations were given in the top of the first when Schwarber came to bat, middle of the first when Lester took the mound, in the top of the third when Lester came to bat, and in the top of the sixth when Lester exited the game.
It all went pretty much as expected, but it was still special to see. It is just too bad there could not be 40,000 people in the park. Also worth noting former bench coach Dave Martinez, former pitching coach Jim Hickey and former All Star shortstop Starlin Castro all participated in the game as well with the Nationals.
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The Cubs hitters were not so kind to Lester, who went 5 1/3 innings and gave up five runs on eight hits with four strikeouts and no walks on 76 pitches. Jason Heyward, Willson Contreras and Javier Baez all homered off him. Rizzo drove in a run with a deep sacrifice fly for the first run. It was 3-0 by the end of the second, but Lester settled in before giving up a solo shot to Baez in the sixth, which ended his night. Lester’s season ERA went from 2.25 to 3.80 in the losing effort.
Schwarber kindly reminded Cubs fans of the power he possesses, as he tagged Adbert Alzolay for a two-run shot to center in the top of the fourth. Wrigley tradition was kept in check however as the ball was thrown back immediately. He also walked, struck out and grounded out.
Lester would take the loss as the Cubs won 7-3. Alzolay got the win despite only pitching five innings and surrendering three runs. Thirty-year-old Tommy Nance, the man who was playing in Indy Ball in 2015, made his MLB debut and got the final three outs of the ballgame.
Safe the say the honeymoon will die off and the Nationals will just be opponents going forward, but having this was a nice way to honor two guys who did a lot for the Cubs.