The Rundown: Hero’s Welcome for Lester and Schwarber, Cubs Belt Three Homers in Win, Machado Collides With Unwarranted Controversy

“Hello, stranger, it seems so good to see you back again.
How long has it been? It seems like a mighty long time.” – Yvonne Elliman, Hello Stranger

Instant Replay

When Jason Heyward, Willson Contreras, Javier Báez and Kyle Schwarber all go yard in the same game, it’s almost a guarantee the Cubs will win, even if one of those players happens to now be a frenemy. Such was the case yesterday evening, when the Cub spoiled the homecoming of Schwarber and Jon Lester with a 7-3 win over the Nationals.

The cheers for the lefty started well before game time and Lester received three standing ovations during the game itself: one when he took the mound, one when he batted for the first time, and one when he was removed by Washington manager Davey Martinez.

All-around good guy Anthony Rizzo even wore a Lester Cubs jersey as he entered the park prior to the game, though the pleasantries ended when Lester grounded out to the first baseman in the 3rd inning. The former Cubs ace showed his emotions throughout the game, including during his signature walk back to the dugout once he was pulled. He hadn’t allowed a homer in three previous starts, but the Cubs hit three home runs and scored five runs off Lester in 5.1 innings.

“At this point in my career, you try to soak in as much as you can with a lot of different things,” Lester said after the game. “But at the same time, you have to kind of walk that line trying to win the baseball game and soak it in. It was awesome, a nice atmosphere here.”

While there’s no doubt it was Lester’s evening, Schwarber likewise received a lot of love from Cubs fans until he walloped a two-run blast off of Adbert Alzolay in the 4th inning. Cubs fans mockingly booed the hulking outfielder and the fan who retrieved the home run ball threw it back. Schwarber sounded like he had hoped to leave a lasting impression.

“Obviously you want to finish your tenure with the team, and from there, whatever happens, happens,” Schwarber said. “But it’s not a hate thing or anything like that. It’s more of just going out there and proving something to yourself.”

  • The Good: Heyward had a multi-hit game, going 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBI.
  • The Better: Every Cubs starter had at least one hit except Alzolay, as the Cubs offense continued its impressive rebound after a dismal start to the season.
  • The Bad:  Alzolay wasn’t on, and got away with a couple of meatball sliders and sinkers, but did enough to win despite giving up home runs to Schwarber and Trea Turner.
  • The Ugly: David Bote pinch-hit for Alzolay in the 5th, went down on a called third strike, and looked totally unprepared for Lester’s off-speed arsenal. His .536 OPS didn’t seem enough of an edge to remove Alzolay after just 63 pitches. At some point, David Ross is going to have to let the rookie pitcher face a lineup for a third time.

Cubs News & Notes

Climbing the Ladder

“I’ve been first and last, look at how the time goes past. But I’m all alone at last, rolling home to you.” – Neil Young, Old Man

  • Games Played: 40
  • Total Plate Appearances: 1,501
  • Total Strikeouts: 392
  • Strikeout Rate: 26.1%
  • Team Batting Average: .234

Knowing Lester’s tendencies certainly helped the Cubs last night as they banged out 12 hits in 34 PAs, including the three taters.

Odds & Sods

You could have easily predicted a Schwarber home run before yesterday’s game.

How About That!

Graphic video alert: Mets outfielder Kevin Pillar was horrifyingly hit in the nose by a pitch from Braves reliever Jacob Webb, but later tweeted that he’s doing well. In fact, Webb seemed more shaken by the incident than Pillar.

There’s a little controversy surrounding a legal slide by Manny Machado into Tommy Edman to break up a potential double play in the Padres-Cardinals game on Sunday night.

Padres manager Jayce Tingler defended his third baseman and bemoaned the crazy takes directed at Machado after the game.

Players and coaches leaguewide agreed it was a clean play, which should end any argument to the contrary.

Albert Pujols is “really pumped up” to help lead the Dodgers to their second consecutive championship.

Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune has some ideas on how to improve pace of play and make the game more interesting.

The White Sox continue to roll. They smoked the Twins 16-4 last night thanks to a grand slam by Danny Mendick and the first career home run by Nick Madrigal. Chicago increased it’s AL Central lead to 3.5 games over the Indians, who lost 7-4 in Anaheim.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

The Astros announced they will go to full capacity at Minute Maid Park one week from today when Houston returns from its current road trip to host the Dodgers.

Fenway Park has been cleared for full capacity beginning May 29.

A’s team officials intend to tour Las Vegas next week to explore potentially moving the team to southern Nevada.

Monday’s Three Stars

  1. Jon Lester
  2. Kyle Schwarber
  3. Anthony Rizzo

Did baseball really exist outside of Wrigley Field last night? I can neither confirm nor deny that.

Extra Innings

Is it just me, or does Nico Hoerner make the Cubs’ defense look 100 times better?

Out of Left Field

“Cubs convention. That’s a whole other crackerjacks in of itself. I’ve never seen anything like that…” – Jon Lester

They Said It

  • “Didn’t really settle down until maybe the second inning, third inning, as far as all that stuff, It’s just different, man. You’re pitching against your buddies. You’re pitching against guys that you’ve grinded with for a lot of years.” – Lester
  • “Our friendship creates a lot of conflict in my heart for sure. He’s got enough stats that will carry him throughout his life. I’m not worried about his career stats today. Today, we’re out to beat him. I’ll have a beer with him at some point for sure. But today, we’ll try to keep him at 193 and wish him the best after today.” – David Ross
  • “He’s a big reason why this franchise turned into a winning franchise. … That reason is because of Jon Lester and how he changed the culture.” – Anthony Rizzo
  • “I was like, ‘They threw it back?’ Definitely keep that as a keepsake, definitely a special moment here for myself just being able to get a hit in that moment.” – Kyle Schwarber

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Everglow by Coldplay – A fitting tribute to the former Cubs’ heroes, even with the magnificent speech by Muhammad Ali at the end of the song.

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