The statement above is almost literally the entire truth about this game. Jon Lester posted his first Cubs win and had his best Cubs outing to date, and Addison Russell provided the only offense the Cubs wound up needing with his first big-league home run.
The Cubs moved to 13-8 with this win, but the Cardinals had kept winning while the Cubs (a) lost one game and (b) had an off day, so the Cubs now were in second place, 2½ games behind St. Louis.
Before I get to Addison Russell's big day, a few words about the Cubs' $155 million pitcher.
Now this is the Jon Lester the Cubs thought they were getting when they signed him to that six-year deal last winter.
Lester threw seven shutout innings, allowing just three singles and a walk, and Russell's first major-league home run provided the only scoring in the Cubs' 1-0 win over the Brewers on another wind-blowing-in afternoon at Wrigley Field.
Lester posted his first victory as a Cub, but more importantly, was the dominant pitcher he had been for several seasons with the Red Sox. In his seven innings, Lester threw an efficient 90 pitches and only two runners got past first base, that in the second inning when Lester loaded the bases before striking out Wily Peralta to end it. No one reached base off Lester at all after a bunt single by Gerardo Parra in the fourth.
Addison Russell smacked the first of what we hope are many big-league home runs in the third inning off Peralta. A construction worker retrieved the ball and got it to a Cubs security employee, so you can be certain that Russell will get the ball back. That home run was hit into a pretty strong wind blowing in. That same wind held up a fly ball hit by Ryan Braun in the sixth inning that Chris Coghlan caught near the left-field well -- reminiscent, in a way, of the ball Billy Williams caught in 1969 off Hank Aaron to help preserve Kenny Holtzman's no-hitter, an event Len & JD recounted on the game telecast.
One thing I really appreciate about Len is that he's become a great student of Cubs history; he's clearly looked into a lot of it and it shows in his work.
Lester batted for himself in the bottom of the seventh and grounded out, and then came to the mound to start the eighth. Only then was he removed by Joe Maddon, to a warm ovation. I'm not sure what was going on there. It would seem, if Maddon had really intended to lift Lester for the eighth, that he would have batted for him -- because you can use all the runs you can get in a 1-0 game. Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon finished up as they have many times over the last two years, Strop with a 1-2-3 eighth and Rondon allowing just a two-out double to Jason Rogers in the ninth. Rondon was throwing heat consistently at 97-98 miles per hour and is starting to establish himself as one of the top closers in the game.
I've got one other little nitpick with how the Cubs played this game, and I know there's an argument to be made either way on this play. Starlin Castro attempted to go from first to third on a Chris Coghlan single with one out in the sixth. I understand Maddon wants his runners to be aggressive, and usually I'm in complete agreement with this. But with just a 1-0 lead in the sixth, wouldn't you rather have runners on first and second with one out, than risk the second out at third base leaving just Coghlan on first?
As I said, I could go either way on this one and in the end, it's moot because the Cubs won the game. The Cubs had eight hits other than Russell's homer and went 0-for-5 with RISP, but since they won the game... it doesn't matter, for today, at least. Props also to Kris Bryant. Even though Bryant went 0-for-2, he drew two more walks and showed real good patience at the plate.
It's the Cubs' first 1-0 win of the year (and the sixth overall 1-0 game in MLB in 2015) and first for the team since September 15, 2014, the game that Anthony Rizzo won with a walkoff against the Reds. With Lester now getting into a groove, the Cubs have received outstanding starting pitching all this homestand. Even with the 8-1 loss to the Pirates Wednesday, Cubs starting pitchers have allowed:
Monday, Jason Hammel, no runs in eight innings Tuesday, Travis Wood, two runs in seven innings Wednesday, Kyle Hendricks, two runs in five innings Friday, Jon Lester, no runs in seven innings
That's four earned runs in 27 innings from the starters this week, a 1.33 ERA. This could wind up being one of the best starting staffs in the N.L. Central, if it isn't already.
I'm a bit concerned about the offense as the Cubs have scored just 12 runs in the four games at Wrigley Field this week. Perhaps the warmer weather -- due in tomorrow, we're told -- will help the Cubs bats get untracked. Jake Arrieta will face Mike Fiers.