The Cubs went into Monday’s contest needing a win, not a tall task when facing the Pirates. Jon Lester was on his game in a big victory, but a potentially serious injury clouded the good news.
The Cubs took an early lead on Pirates starter JT Brubaker in the 2nd inning. Kyle Schwarber, fresh off his nationally televised benching Sunday, doubled to right and would eventually score on a perfectly placed two-out bunt hit from Javier Baez.
Lester pitched to contact most of the night, recording just one strikeout, but he got a lot of outs on the ground. When the Pirates did hit the ball hard in the air, it died in the spacious outfield of PNC Park.
The dark cloud hanging over the W appeared when Kris Bryant appeared to tweak something on a swing in the 2nd inning. He was replaced an inning later by David Bote with what the Cubs are calling right oblique tightness, which is never a good sign.
Victor Caratini doubled in the 5th inning to score Jason Kipnis and increase the lead to 2-0, then the Cubs broke things open against the Pittsburgh bullpen in the 8th. Schwarber knocked in two more with his second two-bagger of the game and Bote followed with a single to give his team the winning 5-0 margin. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Won
Lester and the bullpen combined to shut out the Pirates and they were able to pad the lead late to make it a stress-free win.
The Pirates had men on first and third with one man down in the bottom of the 6th, but Lester coaxed Erik Gonzalez to hit into a double play to end the threat.
Stats That Matter
- This is the kind of start you want to see from Big Jon: 6 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 1 K, and 1 BB. He is now just one inning short of throwing 1,000 in a Cubs uniform.
- Schwarber had a good game at the plate and responded well to his benching.
- Jason Heyward had three more hits to strengthen an excellent year.
The Cubs took care of business against a bad Pirates team to keep their NL Central pursuers at bay. Bryant’s injury may put the rest of his season in jeopardy, which would be a real shame.