The Cubs might be back. It is just two games, but the Cubs look like the mashers that racked up the most wins in baseball since 2015. The formula for this dominance is right out of the playbook of Earl Weaver with pitching, defense and the three run home run driving the Cubs to victory today. The Pirates were able to make some noise late with a few solo shots, but the Cubs cruised to their first series win since completing their sweep of the Cardinals at home on June 9. Now the Cubs have a chance to avoid Meatloaf once again and win three straight for the first time since... well June 9th.
The story of the game is the greatest free agent in Cubs history having yet another standout day. Big Jon did it all, but it started with a locked-in Lester dominating the Pirates in the first inning. Kevin Newman lashed a single to start the ballgame, but Bryan Reynolds was caught looking as Lester caught a generous outside strike. Starling Marte flew out and Josh Bell struck out swinging as it looked like vintage Lester to start.
Jordan Lyles started his third game against the Cubs. The first two were polar opposites as Lyles was strong in his first start in a good run to start to the year overall. When the Cubs saw Lyles next he had started to scuffle to which they gleefully added at the time. Today Lyles wasn't even able to complete an inning. Command was an issue as Kyle Schwarber drew the leadoff walk. Javier Baez struck out on a good spiked curve in the dirt, but Lyles again lost a batter on balls. Anthony Rizzo was able to push a ball past the shift to drive in the first run of the game. Willson Contreras worked the count and then launched a hanging curve into the stands. Jason Heyward doubled into right next and Addison Russell drew a walk. Lyles struck out Almora to improve his K/9, but Jon Lester singled over the head of Bryan Reynolds to drive in a pair making it 6-0. Clint Hurdle saw enough after Schwarber drew another walk. Javy greeted new Pirates pitcher Chris Stratton with a double to kick the extra point. The 7 spot certainly was fun to watch.
Lester fired strikes the rest of the ballgame. The Pirates struggled early on and put zeroes on the board through four innings. Jung Ho Kang and Starling Marte hit solo shots in the fifth and sixth inning for the Pirates first tallies. As stated at the outset, Lester did it all himself. Lester hit the Cubs first pitcher's home run in 2019 to extend the lead to 8.
Hurdle leaned on the former starter Stratton to eat innings and he was still hurling into the fifth inning despite clearly laboring. The Cubs rallied with two outs starting with a Willson Contreras walk. Jason Heyward rolled a double into left center to give the Cubs a scoring chance. Russell singled to drive in that pair for another clutch two out hit with runners in scoring positions.
Lester ran into more trouble in the seventh inning. Jose Osuna singled into left center on which Kyle Schwarber made a nice diving attempt to grab. The Cubs challenged but the call was upheld. Kang then hit a groundball that Javy flipped too late to Russell. Lester got another groundball and the Cubs completed the double play with the strong arm of Javy. However, the first base ump called the runner safe which meant only a single out was recorded since the challenge was burnt. Corey Dickerson bounced into another fielder's choice that scored the Pirates third run. Newman hit another sinking liner into left that Schwarber was unable to corral. That ended Lester's afternoon just short of completing the seventh. Brandon Kintzler got a groundball out to preserve the quality start for Big Jon.
Luis Escobar made his big league debut for the Pirates and pitched two scoreless innings. The Cubs managed to put some baserunners on but weren't able to push across any more runs. Clay Holmes pitched the final two innings for the Pirates and kept them in the ballgame with another couple of goose eggs on the board. The Cubs managed to put two runners in scoring position without a base hit, but ended the eighth inning still on ten runs.
Randy Rosario was greeted by a Starling Marte solo shot making it a 10-4 ballgame. And it was hardly all good when Josh Bell followed that up with a single, but Rosario retired the next three Pirates to prevent Steve Cishek from having to be used just yet. Rosario went back out in the ninth inning, and retired the first Pirate. But the safety blanket that is Cishek was called for once the tying run was thinking about getting ready to grab a bat. It didn't take long for Cishek to extinguish the threat and the Cubs held onto their touchdown length margin of victory.
This is my 500th published post at Cubs Den. I am the third person to cross that threshold at Cubs Den, and I hope you can forgive a moment of sentimentality. But this has been perhaps the longest non-professional, non-family commitment I have maintained. My first recap was posted on August 12, 2014. I have been given the slight honors of being named lead recap writer by John and writing the final recap every year since 2014 at Cubs Den.
But I'd also like to take a moment to talk about the future. As a long time student of history, my belief has long been that one of the reasons of looking back is to inform the present and future. Hopefully you've noticed my attempt to stretch myself as a writer in the early morning. It is part of the effort to get Cubs Den to grow which is necessary for it to continue. And I will apply my customary Adequasivity to the task.