It seems like nothing comes easy for the Chicago Cubs (59-38) lately. In a game that lasted just over four hours, Jon Lester (10-4, 3.09 ERA) was shaky early, throwing 39 pitches in the first inning while allowing two runs to score. By the end of the second inning Lester was already up to 61 pitches thrown.
Jon did a good job settling things down until the fifth inning when he loaded the bases on a double and two walks, getting no outs in the process. Joe Maddon had seen enough and that was it for Lester as he was pulled in favor of Justin Grimm, who struck out Chris Carter before he was replaced by Clayton Richard.
Richard, who’s had hard luck this year getting outs on balls hit in play – sporting a .411 BABIP – gave up a hit on a ball that was smashed into the dirt in front of home plate, bounced high in the air and barely managed to bound over the outstretched arm of Kris Bryant. That scored two runs and the Cubs were down 4-0.
The Cubs managed to scrap out a run on a Ben Zobrist RBI single in the top of the sixth inning, breaking the shut-out. They headed into the seventh inning still down by three runs.
It was in the top of the seventh that Tommy ‘3 am’ La Stella hit a one-out double that scored Miguel Montero. That left the Cubs with runners on second and third base down by two runs with only one out.
After the Brewers intentionally walked Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo came up and made them pay. He worked the count to 2-2 and then bashed a line-drive into the right center field gap. The ball rolled all the way to the wall, scoring three runs and giving the Cubs the shot in the arm they needed.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 24, 2016
For the first time in the game the Cubs held the lead, albeit a narrow one. Ben Zobrist would add to that lead in the very next at-bat when he hit a grounder just past the shifted infield to score Anthony Rizzo. They call it an insurance run for a reason, my friends.
Hector Rondon entered in the bottom of the ninth inning attempting to secure his 18th save of the year. With two outs, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who would undoubtedly be a hall-of-famer if he faced the Cubs everyday, hit his third home run in two games, cutting the lead to one.
Rondon was able to strike out Jake Elmore and the Cubs escape with a 6-5 win (Box Score).
Stats that mattered
- Lester really struggled with his control today in the heat – 4.0IP, 4R, 4H, 5BB, 7Ks
- Zobrist had a clutch performance – 2-for-3, 2RBIs, 1BB
- Tommy La Stella had a nice day in the lead-off spot – 3-for-3, 1R, 1RBI, 1BB, 2B
- Anthony Rizzo’s three-run double was huge
- Kris Bryant got involved early and often – 1-for-3, 2R, 2BB
- The Cubs ended up 4-for-10 with RISP
That sure wasn’t pretty but it was effective. Either way it yielded a much needed win for the Cubs, who’s lead in the NL Central over the Cardinals has shrunk from 12.5 games to 6.5 games.
By winning this series, for the first time in 80 years – since 1936 – the Cubs have won three consecutive series coming out of the all-star break.
The Cubs travel back to Chicago to take on their cross-town rivals the Chicago White Sox on the south-side. The four game series – two games away followed by two games at Wrigley – kicks off tomorrow at 7:10 PM CDT with Jake Arrieta (12-4, 2.60 ERA) taking the hill for the Cubs.