Jon Lester finally hit a home run in this game, and the Cubs blew out the D-backs to improve to 57-48. They led the N.L. Central by 2½ games.
It had happened once before, but in a spring-training game that wasn’t televised, so only those of us attending the game actually witnessed it.
But it came close to happening a few other times, and one day, we all knew it would happen for real.
“It” refers to a home run hit by Jon Lester, and Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, it did indeed happen [VIDEO].
Oppo, no less, and that was no cheapie, either:
The young man you see in the video happily holding up the baseball was, I understand, brought to the clubhouse after the game to personally present the ball to Lester. Here are Lester’s postgame comments [VIDEO].
And, he came out for a curtain call. I particularly liked this reaction from the Twitter account of Over The Monster, our SB Nation Red Sox site:
Lester’s blast was one of five Cubs home runs pacing a 17-hit attack that crushed the Diamondbacks 16-4, the most runs in a game for the Cubs this year and also their largest margin of victory. It was the most runs the Cubs had scored at Wrigley Field in quite some time:
#Cubs: first time with 16+ runs at Wrigley Field since 8/14/2009 (17-2 win vs Pirates)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 2, 2017
On the mound, Lester’s day was nearly as interesting, though for a different reason. The D-backs scored three runs off him in four innings (one of those scoring after he’d left the game), though he struck out nine, including the 2,000th of his career. That put him in this interesting club:
2,000th career K (while pitching for #Cubs)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 2, 2017
G. C. Alexander (8/23/1925)
Dan Haren (9/13/2015)
John Lackey (5/6/2016)
Jon Lester (8/1/2017)
But Lester threw 104 pitches, primarily because D-backs hitters kept fouling balls off. Leadoff hitter David Peralta took Lester to a 12-pitch at-bat before striking out, and Lester threw 31 pitches in a scoreless second inning in which he loaded the bases on a single and two walks before striking out the side.
Four innings, five hits, three runs, nine strikeouts and hitting a home run... and didn’t even get a “W” for his evening’s work. Weird.
Cubs hitters wasted no time in getting to D-backs starter Patrick Corbin. Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant began the game with singles, and one out later Willson Contreras walked to load the bases.
Albert Almora Jr. singled in two runs, and the inning might have been bigger had Contreras not been thrown out at third on that play, because Addison Russell followed with a double. Almora had to stop at third.
So it was 2-0 heading to the bottom of the second. Ian Happ quickly made that 3-0:
Lester followed with a single. Zobrist hit a ball that glanced off Brandon Drury’s glove at third base; he wound up on second and Lester on third. Bryant hit a sac fly to score Lester. Anthony Rizzo was up next:
Now it’s 6-0 and I was wondering why D-backs manager Torey Lovullo left Corbin in the game to take this pounding. Corbin didn’t depart until his batting-order spot came up in the fourth; by then he’d allowed Lester’s two-run shot and in all he gave up 10 hits and eight runs (seven earned) in three innings.
In addition to the homer, this was the first multi-hit game at the plate in Lester’s career. Also:
Jon Lester's career slash line improved from .072/.129/.097 to .081/.137/.122 tonight #Cubs— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 2, 2017
But after he hit Peralta and allowed a single and a run-scoring double to begin the fourth inning, Joe Maddon took mercy on him and lifted him for Hector Rondon. Obviously, Lester was getting close to being pulled before the fifth even started, with an 8-0 lead and having thrown 97 pitches in four innings. But Maddon probably was figuring Jon could retire three more hitters for the “W.”
Anyway, Rondon got the three hitters he faced in the fifth, one of them on a run-scoring ground out and the game went to the bottom of the fifth 8-3 Cubs.
It was still that way in the bottom of the sixth when the Cubs put the game away with an offensive display that included a couple of walks, another D-backs error and five hits including the Cubs’ fourth home run of the game, this one by Javier Baez with two men on [VIDEO].
That completed a seven-run inning that made it 15-3.
The Cubs weren’t done with scoring or homers, either. Rizzo led off the seventh [VIDEO] with a home run.
Rizzo’s 26th gave him a pair for the game. It was the second multi-homer game of the year for Rizzo and 15th of his career. He’s on pace for a possible 40-homer season, which would be the first of his career.
That, said Torey Lovullo, was enough for his bullpen, so he had infielder Daniel Descalso throw the bottom of the eighth. Descalso retired all three hitters he faced, all on fly balls. Too bad, as reliever Mike Montgomery was on deck; I’d have loved to see Montgomery, who is 2-for-29 in his career as a hitter, face Descalso. Fun fact about Descalso’s appearance:
Last 5 pos. player P vs #Cubs— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 2, 2017
Daniel Descalso tonight
Luis Sardinas SEA 7/29/16
Ryan Raburn & David Murphy CLE 6/17/15
Descalso STL 5/12/14
Montgomery could have finished up with a scoreless three innings, but Russell made a throwing error on a grounder that could have ended the game. Instead, another single plated a consolation run for Arizona in the ninth. Montgomery posted a save for his three innings, his third of the season. Montgomery threw at least three innings in all three of those saves.
Fun fact: The last pitcher to have three saves in a season, all with three or more innings pitched, was Brett Anderson. Yes, the guy the Cubs just let go. He did that for the Athletics.
One more wacky pitching fact about this game: In the baseball-reference era, there has been just one other pitcher who threw four innings in a game, allowed three runs, struck out nine, and his team won the game.
That pitcher? Scott Kazmir. For Tampa Bay, on May 17, 2007. And I’m pretty sure you know who the manager of that team was. What a weird coincidence.
So the Cubs had lots of fun beating a team that’s been pretty good most of this year. They improved their post-All-Star record to 14-3 and their run differential since the break is +48 (that’s also the run differential for the season, as they were exactly even at the break). From Lester:
#Cubs now 14-3 since All-Star break. Lester: "We came out of the break, it's like a different team."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 2, 2017
It does seem that way, doesn’t it? Whether it was the break itself that energized this team, or the Jose Quintana trade, or a combination of several factors, the 2017 Cubs have very closely resembled their 2016 counterparts since the break.
Wednesday, the Cubs go for the series win, and also their fourth straight win overall. Jake Arrieta goes for the Cubs and Zack Godley for the D-backs.