This one raised the blood pressure on more than a few occasions, but Jon Lester showed once again why he has been worth every penny and then some. The game started inauspiciously with Pablo Reyes hitting an infield single. Javier Báez was able to get to the ball but his throw was offline to Anthony Rizzo to allow Reyes to reach. Lester was fighting his command for most of the night despite a fairly big zone from the home plate umpire. Josh Bell hit a fly ball that Ian Happ tracked down the ball. Francisco Cervelli walked to load the bases. José Osuna swung through a 2-2 pitch for the second out, and a groundball to Báez allowed Lester to escape the bases loaded jam.
Trevor Williams has been very good for the Pirates down the stretch, but the Cubs offense was able to put traffic on the bases often against Williams. Ben Zobrist hit a one out double in the first inning, but remained planted at second base with two outs to end the inning.
Lester was in trouble again in the second inning with Colin Moran hitting a double into left center. Jordy Mercer hit it hard but right at the statue of Daniel Murphy for the first out. Trevor Williams bounced out to Báez and Reyes to Bote for the final out of the inning.
The Cubs half of the second started with a strange play as an easy pop fly ball off the bat of Kyle Schwarber landed a few feet in front of Starling Marte in center. Schwarber didn't bust out of the box and had to settle for a single on the play. Ian Happ hit a single into center to give the Cubs a pair of runners with no outs. Williams punched out Willson Contreras and Jon Lester, and once again the Cubs were in danger of blowing a scoring chance. David Bote pulled a 3-2 pitch down the third base line to clear the bases. Bote reached third on the play, but was left there when Murphy's flyball was caught by Marte.
Lester's pitch count continued to rise quickly. He walked Josh Bell with one out in the third inning. Bell moved into scoring position by stealing second with two outs. Lester looked like he was finally settled in the fourth inning with two quick outs, but Jordy Mercer hit the second infield single for the Buccos. Stubborn Jon didn't give in against the pitcher when perhaps he should have and walked Williams. Lester struck out Reyes for his third and final punchout of the evening to end the fourth.
The bottom half of the inning saw Ian Happ walked to start the inning but was thrown out trying to steal second. It may have been a busted hit and run but either way it was the first of many outs on the basepaths for the Cubs. Contreras pulled a double down the left field line. That spark of life was wiped out when Contreras was easily thrown out on Jon Lester's single. David Bote walked to extend the inning. Daniel Murphy singled up the middle to drive in Lester when the throw was offline. The Cubs now had a three run lead.
Lester did settle in and retired the next six batters he faced to pitch six scoreless frames. The Cubs threatened in the fifth inning. Báez doubled with one out, but he was thrown out when he foolishly tried to advance on a groundball hit to Mercer. Báez at least made the Cubs third TOOTBLAN of the night interesting with a rundown lasting long enough for Schwarber to advance to second this time. An Ian Happ strikeout ended the fifth. That would be it for Williams.
Steve Cishek pitched a clean seventh inning which was a nice sight for sore eyes. Carl Edwards Jr. was given the eighth inning and it wasn't quite as smooth. Starling Marte drew a lead off walk, and things got dicey when David Bote's error allowed Bell to reach. This brought noted Cubs killer Cervelli to the plate, and as expected bounced into a rally killing 6-4-3 double play. Osuna flew out to end the threat.
The Cubs threatened a couple more times but were unable to add to their lead. They probably should have been able to in the eighth inning. Ian Happ reached base yet again with one out. Terrance Gore entered the game and did Terrance Gore things by stealing second on the next pitch thrown. Gore took off again while Contreras was in the batter's box, and Contreras bounced to second on the play. The rare time the Cubs weren't aggressive as Gore didn't attempt to take home on the play. Jason Heyward struck out on a pitch comically far out of the zone to keep a save opportunity for Jesse Chavez.
Chavez has been amazing in a Cubs uniform, and that continued with a fairly drama free ninth inning. A two out single was the only blemish, but an easy groundball out to Rizzo ended the game. The Cubs still control their own destiny.
The magic number is down to threeve.