Lester, hit parade end Cubs' three-game skid
For one day anyway, the Chicago Cubs' world seemed to be spinning correctly on its axis.
The offense returned Monday and so did starting pitcher Jon Lester in an 8-1 makeup-game victory over the Los Angeles Angels at Wrigley Field.
"The world revolves around confidence," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, whose team snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 32-26. "It's just one game. We've got another team (the Colorado Rockies) coming in (Tuesday), and it's going to be different."
Lester earned his first victory (and had his best outing) since May 12 as he worked 7 innings, giving up 4 hits and 1 run as his record moved to 4-4 with a 3.32 ERA.
"Obviously, we didn't play great on the road," Lester said of the Cubs' 1-5 trip to Houston and St. Louis. "But coming home, as I said at the beginning of the year, it's always nice to come home. This place treats us so well as far as the fans and just being at home. It's always a good feeling."
There was also the matter of the "new guy."
Veteran Carlos Gonzalez, a former star with the Rockies, came up from Class AAA Iowa after being signed to a minor-league contract last week and made an immediate impact.
The Cubs broke open a 1-0 lead with 5 runs in the bottom of the sixth. For the game, they went 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position after going 4-for-41 in their previous seven games.
Lester went back out for the seventh and battled against seven Angels hitters. The bases were loaded with one out when Jonathan Lucroy drove a flyball to the gap in right-center. Out of nowhere it seemed came Gonzalez to make a running catch, ending with a dive on the warning track in front of the wall.
Gonzalez's catch went for a sacrifice fly, and Lester got out of further trouble in the inning.
"Yeah, how about that new guy?" Lester said. "I'm glad to see him on our side. I know he's been a Cub killer for a long time. When that ball went up, I thought there was no chance that he was going to catch that ball.
"That changes that whole game. He doesn't make that play and 2, maybe 3, runs score. Now they're right back in it. That right there changes the whole outcome of that game as far as us being kind of safely ahead and then our guys tack on the next inning. That was a huge, huge play in that game."
Javier Baez and Willson Contreras hit homers in the seventh, but reporters gathered around Gonzalez's locker. In addition to his catch, he singled and walked.
"You know what? It was better than I expected," he said. "But not about my performance, just being able to wear this uniform and being on the Cubs' side is great. It's better than I expect. The energy that these fans bring every day is tremendous. I'm looking for more days like this."
So are the Cubs, who are looking to catch lightning from a veteran player who was let go by the Cleveland Indians after hitting .210 for them.
Gonzalez is a three-time Gold Glove winner, so the catch wasn't totally shocking.
"I was just really focused on getting to the ball," he said. "If that (effort) doesn't get it, just get close and get the ball back in the infield. It worked out well, and I'm glad I was able to make the catch and get the win."