Lester pitches well, but Dodgers silence Cubs bats

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning Thursday in Chicago.

    Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning Thursday in Chicago. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 4/25/2019 7:28 PM

Like any good homeowner, the Chicago Cubs got a few things done around the house during the last week.

When they walked in the door last weekend, they were below .500. Despite Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field, the Cubs felt pretty good about themselves as they locked the doors and headed for Arizona.

 

The Cubs head out on a western swing with a record of 12-11 and seemingly confident a slow start will be the worst of it.

"It's trending in the right direction, that's for sure," said first baseman Anthony Rizzo. "We've just got to continue to play good baseball. Guys are ready to play every day, doing the right things with the right attitude, the right mindset."

Fueling the Cubs' recent turnaround has been solid starting pitching. They got their ace back Thursday as lefty Jon Lester came off the injured list and tossed 5 creditable innings, giving up 4 hits and 1 run.

Lester had been out since straining his left hamstring in the April 8 home opener, but he looked healthy Thursday, throwing 79 pitches as his record fell to 1-1 with a 2.37 ERA.

"Just good to be back out," he said. "Tired of being in the clubhouse and not doing anything."

The rest of the staff shouldered the workload well while Lester was out. Over the last 12 games, Cubs starting pitchers have a 1.80 ERA, striking out 82 and walking 21.

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"It was nice for those guys to pick up my slack and pitch well," Lester said. "Chat (Tyler Chatwood) the other day, unbelievable, him getting thrown into that situation (6 shutout innings in a spot start) and do really well. Maybe we get on a little bit of a run early. I was just glad not to mess that momentum up today and keep going.

"We've been playing really well here the last couple of weeks. I feel good about our guys. I felt good about our guys early on. I think we just backed ourselves into a few corners early and beat ourselves, which (stinks) because we've been playing good baseball, and that's all you can really do. We've been doing that, and now it's fun to be a part of again."

The Dodgers scored their run against Lester in the fifth. Alex Verdugo led off with a triple to center field and scored on a fielding error by Cubs shortstop Javier Baez. Three Cubs relievers combined to give up a run on no hits in the eighth.

The only Cubs run came on Albert Almora Jr.'s two-out homer in the ninth against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen.

Just a couple of weeks ago in Milwaukee, team president Theo Epstein was apologizing to Cubs fans for the poor start. He, too, was seeing better things Thursday.

"As tough as that start was, I think it's going to be good for us in the long run," he said. "We got tested early. I think you find out a lot about individuals and the team when there's adversity. Even though it's early and even though we've all been through it before, when you get off to a really rough first week of the season in a big market, there are a lot of doubters.

"It can push guys. It can test guys. I think they've certainly responded the right way by recommitting to their routines and the foundation and each other and pulling out of it. I think it's a real positive sign."

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