Game Sixty-Six – Cubs 4, Pirates 3
WP – Jon Lester (9-3) LP – Jon Niese (6-4) Save – Hector Rondon (12)
David Ross drove in half of the Cubs runs. Grandpa Rossy squeezed in Javier Baez in the fourth and made it a 3-2 game. Kris Bryant tied it at three with a majestic blast in the fifth and Ross gave his team the lead for good with a solo shot in the sixth. And Hector Rondon picked up a four out save as the Cubs beat the Pirates on Saturday night at the old ballyard.
David Ross (1-for-1 with a home run, a sac bunt, two walks and two RBI), Anthony Rizzo (2-for-3 with a double, a home run and a walk) and Kris Bryant (1-for-3 with a home run and a walk) all went deep Saturday but the win over the Pirates was a total team effort. The Cubs played excellent defense and found a way to come from behind to pick up the victory.
David Ross made three game changing plays Saturday. Ross threw out Andrew McCutchen at third base in the first inning when the Pirates had Jon Lester on the ropes already leading 1-0 and the lefty was struggling throwing strikes. After Ross threw out McCutchen, Lester walked David Freese. Instead of bases loaded and one out, runners were on first and second with two outs. And Lester got out of the jam when Mat Joyce grounded out to Addison Russell.
David Ross bunted in Javier Baez in the fourth with a perfectly executed suicide squeeze and made it a 3-2 game. And Ross broke the 3-3 tie with a solo blast in sixth.
Javier Baez (1-for-4 with a double and a run scored) had a huge impact on the game in the field and on the bases. Baez made one highlight reel play after another at third while blowing bubbles with his gum.
And on the bases, Baez’s body control on a headfirst slide into second base after the Pirates picked him off first base led to a run. Baez avoided Mercer’s tag but was called out. Maddon challenged the call and it was overturned. Baez moved to third on a ball in the dirt and scored on the suicide squeeze. Baez’s hustle and trip around the bases led to a run.
Anthony Rizzo tied the game at one in the second inning with a long home run to right. Kris Bryant tied the game with a shot in the fifth that landed on Waveland. The wind kept a ball Bryant crushed in the first inning from leaving the park.
Jon Lester had a quality start, literally and figuratively. Lester had good command and hit David Ross’ target. But he was just outside of the zone and did not get the calls. Lester was able to maneuver through the Pirates order with one exception, Jordy Mercer. The Pirates’ shortstop wore him out Saturday night. Mercer launched Lester’s third pitch of the game into the bleachers in left and gave the Pirates a quick 1-0 lead. Mercer doubled in the third and scored on a single from Andrew McCutchen. And with the bases loaded and two down in the fourth, Lester hit Mercer in the left foot and forced in David Freese from third base. All three runs Lester gave up Saturday night, Mercer had a hand in.
Jon Lester limited the damage when the Pirates had a chance to break the game wide open. Lester has been a lot better of late, but he put his team in position to win the game.
Jon Lester left after six innings. Chris Coghlan pinch hit for him after Ross launched the home run that gave the Cubs a 4-3 lead. Lester was charged with three runs on seven hits and three walks. Lester hit a batter and struck out seven on 104 pitches, 67 for strikes.
Pedro Strop was incredibly sharp and efficient in the seventh inning. Strop went back out for the eighth and Travis Wood picked up the second out in the eighth. Maddon called on Hector Rondon in the eighth and he responded by retiring the four batters he faced on 13 pitches, nine for strikes.
Javier Baez created the web gems Saturday night. Addison Russell made several sensational plays. And he started the Cubs’ lone double play.
Dexter Fowler had to leave the game after the first inning. Fowler hurt his right hamstring running to first base. Albert Almora Jr. replaced him in center field to start the second inning.
Joe Maddon said during his post-game presser that Fowler is sore. The Cubs do not think it’s a serious injury. Fowler will have an MRI on the right hamstring Sunday.
With Saturday’s win, the Cubs improved to a season-high 26 games over .500 with a 46-20 record.
The Cubs wrap up the three-game series with the Pirates on Sunday night (7:08pm CDT). Kyle Hendricks takes on Jameson Taillon on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.