Lackey outduels Sale as Chicago Cubs earn split
Veteran right-hander John Lackey on Thursday gave Chicago Cubs fans the kind of performance they've been clamoring for since early June.
The 37-year-old snapped a personal five-game losing streak and won a head-to-head matchup against American League All-Star Game starter Chris Sale by holding the Chicago White Sox to an earned run on 4 hits and a walk while striking out four in a 3-1 victory at Wrigley Field.
It was an important turnaround for the two-time World Series champion, who notched his first win since June 8. The Cubs were 9-4 in Lackey's first 13 starts this season, 1-6 in his last 7.
"Wins are kind of a team thing, so it was nice to get one," Lackey said. "Hopefully as a team we can keep winning games. That's the important thing."
The victory gave the Cubs a split of the four-game Crosstown Series, each team winning twice on its home field.
Lackey was lifted in favor of pinch hitter David Ross in the bottom of the sixth with the Cubs leading 2-1. Pulling Lackey after 6 innings afforded manager Joe Maddon the opportunity to shorten the game with hard-throwing relievers Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman lined up to handle the final three innings.
"None of them like it. I don't want them to like it," Maddon said of his proud starting pitchers giving way to an improved bullpen after 6 innings depending on the situation. "It's the game. It's the game you're playing at that particular moment. It's a 2-1 game and you have this opportunity to add on."
Strop pitched a scoreless seventh. In the eighth, Rondon allowed a leadoff double before retiring the next two hitters. With the tying run at third base, Maddon called on Chapman to convert a four-out save. The new acquisition ended the eighth-inning threat by fanning Melky Cabrera on a 102-mph fastball. Then he retired the side in order in the ninth for his first save in a Cubs uniform.
Sale pitched well in his return from the five-game suspension he received for destroying the team's 1976 throwback jerseys before Saturday's game at U.S. Cellular Field. The left-hander and batterymate Dioner Navarro limited the team with the most wins in baseball (61) to 2 earned runs on 6 hits and 3 walks (1 intentional) in a 6-inning, 111-pitch performance. He struck out four.
"I felt good," Sale said. "The first couple (innings) was knocking the rust off a little bit. But Dioner really did a great job of getting me through that. I don't think I had my best of the best out there tonight."
Cabrera gave the Sox a 1-0 first-inning lead with a run-scoring double.
Kris Bryant, who entered the game without a hit against Sale, doubled to the center-field wall in the first inning to tie the game at 1-1.
The Cubs took the lead in the third inning when Ben Zobrist rolled a single up the middle to score Dexter Fowler for a 2-1 lead. They extended the lead to 3-1 in the eighth on Addison Russell's run-scoring groundout.