After rough first, Lester battles and Cubs come back to top Cards 9-4
If there were ever any doubt about the kind of example Jon Lester sets for the Chicago Cubs, one need only look at Saturday night's start.
This had all the makings of a short night for the ace of the pitching staff as he threw 36 pitches and gave up 4 runs in the top of the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field.
But Lester shook it off and gutted out 6 innings and wound up getting the win as the Cubs rallied to beat the Cardinals 9-4 in front of 41,005 fans. The Cubs(36-27) have won the first two games of the series.
Marcell Ozuna hit a 3-run homer and Harrison Bader added a solo homer among the Cardinals' 4 hits in the first.
Lester (5-4) gave up a two-out single to Paul DeJong in the second, and that was it. After the 36-pitch first, Lester's pitch counts from innings 2-6 were 22, 13, 10, 7 and 12 respectively. How did he hang in there when others may have mentally checked out?
"I had no choice," he said. "The Bader at-bat, with him ambushing me and hitting a home run, I can deal with that all day. The Ozuna at-bat for me is something I'm definitely going to lose sleep over.
"That first inning, for whatever reason, just got away from me. I don't know why. We have times like that. Unfortunately it led to 4 runs. I was able to make the adjustment and get through 6 and give our guys a chance."
For him to get the win, he needed a little help from his friends, and he got it in a big way. The comeback began in the bottom of the first, when the Cubs scored twice. That allowed Lester to relax, and it also kept the crowd into the game. Anthony Rizzo led off the third with a single, and he scored on Baez's triple to left field.
Kyle Schwarber tied the game with a two-out homer in the fourth. Schwarber battled Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty to an 11-pitch at-bat, and the homer ended Flaherty's night.
"Schwarbs, that's what it's supposed to look like and not because of the home run," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. "What he's doing at the plate right now, we need to keep that in a jar, because that looks really good."
Schwarber gave the credit to Lester for keeping the Cubs in the game.
"That was huge," said Schwarber, who has hit safely in six straight games. "That's Jon. He's not going to go out there and quit. After that first inning, that was classic Jon."
The Cubs sent nine to the plate in the sixth as Wrigley erupted during a 4-run outburst. Pinch hitter Victor Caratini, batting for Lester, hit a 3-run double. Schwarber followed by doubling to the right-field corner.
"Honestly, I was just really happy, happy that I could contribute to us getting the win, and that's what it's all about," Caratini said through a translator.