The Chicago Cubs (44-23) entered their four-game series with the Cincinnati Reds (42-24) with a 1.5 game division lead and were able to escape the weekend with that lead intact thanks to Jon Lester. The big lefty returned from his back injury and pitched his team to a series split Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati, via MLB 20 The Show.
David Bote doubled the lead with a run-scoring single in the 6th inning. Lester kept the Reds off the scoreboard through 5.2 innings of work before he hit his pitch count.
Willson Contreras blasted a two-run bomb in the 8th to put his team up 4-0, but Cincinnati mounted a major rally in the bottom of the inning. Tyler Chatwood allowed two singles and was lifted for Brandon Morrow, who gave up another single to load the bases with none out. Mike Moustakas and Freddy Galvis each singled to cut the lead to just 4-3 with none out.
Morrow shook off his first real trouble of the season to retire the next three Reds hitters and maintain the lead. Jason Heyward pinch hit for the reliever in the 9th and launched a two-run bomb to give the Cubs some breathing room at 6-3. Nicholas Castellanos doubled and scored against closer Craig Kimbrel in the last of the 9th before Chicago was able to seal the 6-4 victory.
Notes: Chatwood will stay in the bullpen and Alec Mills will be the fifth starter for the time being. Lester was very efficient to stay under his pitch count of 70 all the way into the 6th inning.
Contreras – 2-for-5, HR, 2 RBI
Bryant – 2-for-4, 2 2B, BB, R
Hoerner – 2-for-4, SB, R
Rizzo – 1-for-4, 2 R, BB, HR, RBI
Heyward – 1-for-1, HR, 2 RBI
Lester – 5.2 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 0 ER, 4 K
Moustakas – 4-for-5, 2 RBI
Castellanos – 2-for-5, 2B, 2 R
Winning Pitcher – Lester (4-5)
Losing Pitcher – Castillo (4-4)
Save – Kimbrel (24)
Home Runs – Rizzo (17), Contreras (13), Heyward (12)
Cubs – 44-23
Reds – 42-24
Brewers – 34-31
Cardinals – 29-37
Pirates – 22-43