Game Twenty-Two – Cubs 6, Braves 1
WP – Pedro Strop (1-0) LP – Jim Johnson (0-3) Save – None
What an eighth inning … Anthony Rizzo broke a 1-1 tie in the eighth with a bases loaded single to center. And Matt Szczur delivered the big blast, a Grand Slam to left as the Cubs scored five runs in the eighth inning and beat the Braves on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs put five runs on scoreboard in the eighth inning after the offense was held to one run by Aaron Blair over the first six innings of the game. The Cubs were not able to string together any hits until the eighth off the Braves bullpen.
Tommy La Stella (1-for-1 with a double) pinch-hit for Pedro Strop to start the eighth with the game tied at one. La Stella doubled to left but was thrown out at third when Dexter Fowler (0-for-2 with two walks and a run scored) bunted back to Jim Johnson. Fowler reached first and jogged to second when Jason Heyward (0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored) walked. Ben Zobrist (1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored) ripped a single to right. Fowler had to hold to make sure the line drive went through and stopped at third. With the bases loaded and one down, Fredi Gonzalez made a big mistake and went to his pen for lefty Eric O’Flaherty.
Anthony Rizzo (1-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and a RBI) stepped in and ripped a 1-1 pitch to center. Fowler scored and the Cubs took a 2-1 lead.
Fredi Gonzalez made another pitching change and replaced O’Flaherty with Chris Withrow. Matt Szczur was due up after replacing Jorge Soler (1-for-3) in left for defense in the top of the inning.
With the bags loaded, Matt Szczur (1-for-1 with a home run and four RBI) unloaded on a 0-1 pitch from Withrow. The ball sailed into the bleachers and Szczur’s first career Grand Slam gave the Cubs a 6-1 lead.
Javier Baez (1-for-3 with a double, a walk and a run scored) walked. Addison Russell (0-for-3 with a walk) just missed at least his second longball of the day and David Ross (1-for-4 with a RBI) flied out to center to end the eighth. And the game went to the ninth with the Cubs leading 6-1.
Hector Rondon recorded three outs on six pitches to close out the win.
Jon Lester pitched a very good game Friday afternoon. Lester made two mistakes, the first cost him a run. Freddie Freeman launched a 3-0 pitch into the bleachers in right in the fourth. And Lester worked his way in and out of a bases loaded jam in the seventh inning.
With the game tied at one, Jeff Francoeur led off the seventh with a single. A wild pitch allowed Francoeur to take second. Lester walked Tyler Flowers. Erick Aybar bunted the ball right back to Lester. He fielded it but did not make a throw. The Braves loaded the bases with no outs.
Joe Maddon went to the mound to talk through the situation. And Lester went to work.
Lester struck out Drew Stubbs swinging on a 3-2 pitch. Lester caught pinch-hitter Jace Peterson looking on a 1-2 pitch for the second out. With the bases still loaded, Nick Markakis grounded a 3-2 pitch to first base. Rizzo fielded the ball cleanly and went to the bag to end the inning.
Jon Lester turned the game over to the bullpen in the eighth inning. Lester allowed one run on seven hits with two walks and 10 strikeouts. Lester made 106 pitches, 71 for strikes, in seven innings.
Pedro Strop pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning to setup the home half for the offense.
Javier Baez had another excellent game at the plate. Baez doubled to start the fifth with the Cubs’ first hit of the game. Baez scored on a David Ross single to left. Baez walked and gave himself up in the seventh inning when he hit behind the runners and put two in scoring position late in a tied game.
The Cubs scored six runs on seven hits and seven walks with only three strikeouts.
With Friday’s win, the Cubs improved to 17-5 on the season.
Weather permitting … John Lackey faces Julio Teheran in game two with the Braves on Saturday afternoon (1:20pm CDT).