Game Sixty-One – Cubs 13, Braves 2
WP – Jon Lester (8-3) LP – John Gant (0-1) Save – None
The Cubs improved to a season-high 25 games over .500 with Sunday afternoon’s win in the team’s last ever game at Turner Field (30-43). Jon Lester did not allow an earned run in seven innings while pitching around four Cubs errors.
The Cubs turned what was a 3-1 game as late as the sixth inning into a blowout. The Cubs lit up the scoreboard at The Ted by scoring a combined 10 runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. The Cubs relentless offense went to work. Only three of the 10 runs scored on a home run, Javier Baez cranked a three-run shot in the six-run eighth inning. Joe Maddon emptied his bench and the Cubs were able to enjoy a little Meat Loaf on Sunday afternoon with a series win (2-1) in Atlanta.
The Cubs offense will garner the headlines with Sunday’s game turning into run differential baseball. Six different Cubs drove in runs. Anthony Rizzo (3-for-6 with a double, two runs scored and three RBI), Jason Heyward (3-for-4 with a double, two walks and three runs scored), Ben Zobrist (2-for-5 with a double, a walk, a run scored and two RBI), Javier Baez (2-for-5 with a home run, two runs scored and three RBI), Kris Bryant (0-for-2 with three walks and two runs scored) and David Ross (2-for-4 with two RBI) had huge games at the plate. The Cubs scored 13 runs on 16 hits and eight walks with only one ball leaving the yard. Before the offense ran up the score and left no doubt, it was Jon Lester that did not allow the Cubs last game at Turner Field to get out of hand.
Jon Lester did quite the job of keeping the Cubs in the game early on. The Cubs defense had a miserable start to the day and was charged with four errors in the first four innings. The Cubs gave the Braves a run in the first inning. And Lester had to pitch his way out of jams in what was a much closer game for a majority of the afternoon than the final score indicates.
The Cubs took the lead in the fourth inning. And it was David Ross that delivered the go ahead run with Jon Lester (0-for-3 with a SAC RBI) adding a little insurance.
Ben Zobrist led off the fourth with a walk. Zobrist was erased when Chris Coghlan (1-for-3 with a double, a walk and two runs scored) rolled into a 4-6 fielder’s choice. Javier Baez dropped a bunt to the third base side of the mound. John Gant picked up the ball and threw a strike to first. Baez was called out, replays showed otherwise and the call on the field was reversed.
David Ross blooped a single to right. Coghlan rounded third and chugged home after Markakis bobbled the ball in right. Baez went to third as the Cubs took a 2-1 lead. Jon Lester and Javier Baez executed the safety squeeze to perfection. Freeman fielded Lester’s bunt and had no play on Baez, 3-1 Cubs.
Jon Lester went to work at that point. Lester pitched around a Dexter Fowler error in the fourth and a one-out double in the fifth. The Cubs added on in the sixth and put the game away in the seventh.
Joe Maddon went to his pen after the Cubs blew the game open in the eighth.
Jon Lester completed seven innings and allowed one unearned run on five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. Lester made 109 pitches, 73 for strikes, in what was another excellent outing for the southpaw.
The offense gave Lester a little more breathing room in the sixth inning. Chris Coghlan led off with a double to right. Baez flied out to a diving Markakis in right. Coghlan went to third. With the infield in, David Ross singled to right. Coghlan scored on Ross’ 300th RBI of his career. And the Cubs scored a few jug runs in the seventh.
Jason Heyward stepped to the plate with one out in the seventh in what many thought would be his last plate appearance at Turner Field. Heyward pulled a 2-2 pitch from Casey Kelly to deep right center. When the ball left the bat, it looked like a home run. The ball hit at the base of the wall. Heyward cruised into second with a double. Bryant walked.
Anthony Rizzo singled to right center. Heyward scored and Bryant went to third. Zobrist doubled to left center. Bryant scored, 6-1 Cubs. Coghlan was intentionally walked. Brian Snitker went to his bullpen for Alexi Ogando. With the bases loaded and one down, Baez struck out swinging.
David Ross worked a bases loaded walk and forced in Rizzo, 7-1 Cubs. Lester grounded out to second on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.
As rain fell at The Ted, Jon Lester hung a zero on the board in the bottom of the seventh. The game went to the eighth with the Cubs leading 7-1. And the offense went back to work against the Braves’ bullpen.
Jason Heyward started the six-run eighth inning with a one out single to right off Chris Withrow. Bryant walked. Anthony Rizzo smoked a 0-1 pitch down the first baseline. Heyward scored, 8-1 Cubs. Zobrist singled to center. Bryant scored and Rizzo stopped at second with one out.
Albert Almora Jr. ripped a single to center. Rizzo scored as the line kept moving.
Javier Baez stepped in with two on and one out. And Baez cleared the bases. Baez launched a three-run homer to left to cap the scoring for the Cubs on the afternoon.
The Braves scored a run in the bottom of the eight off Adam Warren after Maddon emptied his bench. Albert Almora Jr., who entered the game in the seventh for defense, shifted to center in the eighth, his first game in the majors in center field. Ender Inciarte single to start the eighth, went to second on defensive indifference and scored on a single by Jeff Francoeur.
Hector Rondon was called on for the ninth inning to get some work in. Rondon recorded three outs on seven pitches to end what turned out to be an extremely long, but entertaining game for the Cubs.
With Sunday’s win, the Cubs improved to 43-18, a season-high 25 games over .500.
The Cubs nine-game, three-city road trip moves to Washington DC on Monday for the first of three with the Nationals. Kyle Hendricks gets the ball in the opener against Max Scherzer.