Cubs get best of Lester, but bullpen can't stop Cards streak

A topic of conversation on the St. Louis side after the Cardinals extended their winning streak to 15 in a row was a meeting on the mound with starter Jon Lester in the fifth inning.

The former Cubs left-hander was losing some steam on his fastball, and Cardinals manager Mike Schildt, along with the trainer, went to the mound to make sure he was OK.

Lester assured Schildt he was fine, then struck out Sergio Alcantara to end the inning.

"He's like a modern-day John Wayne for me, just a 'True Grit,' strong silent type," Schildt said after the game. "I've got a lot of respect for Jon and know he's honest with me."

The Cubs actually won the starting pitcher matchup in this game. Cubs starter Adrian Sampson went 6 innings and left with a 4-2 lead. But both Codi Heuer and Tommy Nance gave up 3 runs in the late innings and St. Louis won again 8-5 at Wrigley Field.

"It's always nice to see Jonny, for sure, I always like to see him," Cubs manager David Ross said. "Not really in that uniform, but I like seeing him nonetheless, Watching him take the bump in any capacity - whether I'm in the other dugout or sitting in the stands or being able to be on his team or behind the plate, it's fun to watch him pitch."

After the game, a video by The Bigs Media showed Lester presenting gifts, reportedly Rolex watches, on the field to two of his former catchers - Ross and Willson Contreras.

From the Cubs' perspective, Sampson continued to make his case to be considered for the 2022 starting rotation. In September, Sampson has posted a 3.09 ERA in three starts and two bullpen appearances.

"I love having the ball and I like having them pry it away from me," Sampson said. "Regardless of whether I come in out of the bullpen or start or whatever, I feel like I can throw as long as I can. Taking me out of the game, I want to make it hard for the manager to do. That's always been my goal."

Sampson could have made a case for going back out in the seventh inning, since he was at 83 pitches. He had 20 major league starts, mostly with Texas, under his belt before joining the Cubs.

"Adrian's filled a lot of holes for us," Ross said. "Filling in the bullpen, starting, real good performance today. Knows what he wants to do out there. Really smart, got a little edge to him as well, knows what he does well and sticks to that. There's a lot to be said about that, just having confidence in yourself and the pitches you can execute."

This game sort of summed up the Cardinals' win streak. They're scoring runs, sometimes early and sometimes late. Antioch native Paul DeJong hit a 2-run homer in the ninth and had a sacrifice fly in the 3-run seventh.

Ian Happ homered and had 3 RBI for the Cubs. The home team had a rough moment in the eighth inning. Trailing 5-4, David Bote led off with a triple, then Trayce Thompson walked.

After a strikeout, Rafael Ortega hit a grounder to first base. Bote went on contact and was caught in a rundown. After he was tagged, Ortega got caught between first and second for an inning-ending double play.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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St. Louis Cardinals starter - and former Cub - Jon Lester delivers a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday at Wrigley Field. Associated Press
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