Game Twenty-Six – Cubs 6, Pirates 2
WP – Jon Lester (3-1) LP – Juan Nicasio (3-3) Save – None
Ben Zobrist launched a three-run homer in the third. Anthony Rizzo went yard in the seventh. Javier Baez drove in two runs. And Jon Lester shut out the Pirates for 5 2/3 innings as the Cubs completed the three-game sweep at PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon.
The Cubs became the first team in the majors with 20 wins on the season with Wednesday’s victory over the Bucs. The Cubs outscored the Pirates 20-5 in the three games and had men on base in 23 of the 27 innings in the series.
Ben Zobrist (1-for-5 with a home run and three RBI) delivered all the runs the Cubs would need on the afternoon in the third inning. Dexter Fowler (1-for-4 with a walk) walked to start the third but was erased when Tommy La Stella (1-for-4 with a run scored) grounded into a 6-4 fielder’s choice. Kris Bryant (1-for-4 with a walk and a run scored) lined out to short for the second out.
Anthony Rizzo (3-for-5 with a double, a home run and three runs scored) smoked a 1-1 pitch into center. Andrew McCutchen ran in and appeared to make a sliding catch. The ball popped out of his glove. Rizzo reached on the error and La Stella ended up at third with two outs.
Ben Zobrist pulled Juan Nicasio’s first pitch into the stands in right center. Zobrist’s second homer of the season gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead.
The Cubs tacked on in the fifth. Anthony Rizzo doubled off the wall in center to start the inning. Zobrist hit a rocket to third that David Freese snagged and threw across for the out.
Javier Baez (3-for-5 with a double and two RBI) had his best series in the majors. Baez pulled a 2-2 pitch into the left field corner. Rizzo trotted home and Baez circled the bases. The ball stuck under the padding and Baez returned to second with a ground rule double.
Anthony Rizzo hit his ninth longball of the season in the seventh off Ryan Vogelsong and made it 5-0 Cubs. And the Cubs scored a jug run in the ninth. Bryant and Rizzo led off the ninth with back-to-back singles. With runners on the corners and one out, Javier Baez grounded out to second. Bryant scored the sixth and final run of the game.
The Cubs scored six runs on 12 hits with five walks and finished the games 3-for-12 with RISP, leaving 10 men on base.
Jon Lester had another good outing Wednesday and came within an out of another quality start. Lester worked his way in and out of two big jams Wednesday afternoon that ran up his pitch count and ultimately cut his outing short.
Lester was in total control through three innings. Lester needed only 40 pitches, 24 for strikes, to complete three frames. And he even made his trademarked glove toss to first base for the first out in the second inning.
Lester pulled a Houdini act in the fourth inning. The Pirates loaded the bases on a David Freese single, a four-pitch walk to Starling Marte and a Francisco Cervelli single. Lester struck out Sean Rodriguez swinging on a 3-2 pitch. Josh Harrison popped out to Zobrist in shallow right and Gregory Polanco went down swinging on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.
The Pirates put runners on the corners with one down in the fifth against Lester. Jordy Mercer reached on an infield single to Addison Russell. McCutchen singled to right center. Mercer went to third. Lester struck out David Freese and Starling Marte swinging to end the fifth.
Jon Lester started the sixth inning but could not finish it. Josh Harrison singled to left with two down and Polanco walked. At that point Joe Maddon went to his pen for Adam Warren. John Jaso batted for Jason Rogers and grounded out to Rizzo for the third out.
Jon Lester allowed eight hits, all singles, and no runs in 5 2/3 innings. Lester issued two free passes and struck out five on 103 pitches, 62 for strikes.
Adam Warren gave up his first two runs of the season on a Matt Joyce pinch-hit, two-run homer in the seventh. Warren turned the ball over to Pedro Strop after 1 1/3 innings. Strop retired three of the four Pirates he faced in the eighth and exchanged words with Sean Rodriguez. The Pirates utility man appears to be looking for any excuse to get into a fight with the Cubs.
Hector Rondon made quick work of the Pirates in the ninth … 1-2-3 on 16 pitches to end the game.
The Cubs finished the three-game, zany suit road trip with three victories.
With Wednesday’s win, the Cubs improved to 20-6 on the season.
• Box Score from Yahoo Sports
The Cubs open a 10-game homestand on Thursday night with the first of four against Dusty Baker, Bryce Harper and the Nationals. Kyle Hendricks is scheduled to face Joe Ross in game one.