Kris Bryant was hit by Kingham’s second pitch. Jason Heyward hit the third pitch from Kingham for a bizarre double that looked like a routine fly ball until Starling Marte just slipped and fell [VIDEO], and Kingham’s fourth offering was a grounder to first that scored Bryant and put Heyward on third. Two pitches later, Anthony Rizzo hit a sacrifice fly that scored Heyward for a 2-0 lead.
And Jon Lester, Justin Wilson and Steve Cishek made that hold up for a 2-0 win over the Pirates, the Cubs’ fourth in a row, eighth in their last nine and 12th in their last 15 games.
Lester issued a pair of walks in the second with one out and with two out in the third, Austin Meadows hit a ball into the right-field corner for a triple.
After that, Lester, Wilson and Cishek set down 19 straight Pirates for the win.
I could end this recap here, since I’ve described all the pertinent facts of the game. But there were some plays that are worth talking about.
With one out in the top of the first, Meadows hit a grounder to Rizzo. Lester made a bit of a late break to first and Meadows was called safe, but it was overturned on review [VIDEO].
The next hitter, Marte, sent a ball to the warning track in left that was caught on a nice reaching grab [VIDEO] by Kyle Schwarber.
Schwarber made another nice running grab in the second, Ian Happ made one in the fourth and Heyward added to the outfield defense party in the fifth. Addison Russell, making his first start since returning from the DL, contributed two nice stops at short, including an outstanding short-hop stop on Jordy Mercer leading off the ninth.
And Lester himself got a chance to practice that bounce-pass throw to first that was first unveiled in spring training. It worked perfectly to retire Kingham to end the fifth inning.
The Cubs had some chances to score more runs; a pair of walks to Schwarber and Happ leading off the second led to nothing when Kingham struck out the side. The Cubs had just four more baserunners from the third through the seventh innings, only one of whom (Russell) reached second, in the seventh after a single and a wild pitch. All were stranded.
In the eighth, Willson Contreras had a swinging-bunt single with two out and then Albert Almora Jr. doubled down the line, putting runners on second and third. Happ was intentionally passed, but Russell popped up to end the threat.
Wilson had yet another good outing, and this was probably the highest-leverage situation he’d been in as a Cub — the first reliever out of the pen, in a key setup role with just a two-run lead. He set the Pirates down 1-2-3 with two strikeouts. If he really, at last, has become the reliever the Cubs thought they were trading for last summer, that’s a huge boost to the bullpen.
Brandon Morrow again got the day off, probably because of the two 21-pitch outings on Wednesday and Thursday and likely because Joe Maddon wants him fresh going into the Brewers series on Monday. So Cishek got the save opportunity, and was helped out by some outstanding defense from Javier Baez, who had entered the game for that very purpose in the ninth. Here’s the game’s final out from Javy [VIDEO].
Baez never hesitated going after that ball. It appeared neither Heyward nor Rizzo could have gotten there, and I don’t think anyone else on this team makes that play.
That was a perfect ending to a perfect afternoon at the ballpark, with the complaint department door closed tight and locked. It poured rain, hard, most of the morning but it ended by 11:00 and the sun came out for much of the afternoon, with pleasant temperatures and a quick game time of two hours, 32 minutes.
Walk watch: Four more in this game, 240 for the season, 3.93 per game, a pace for 637.
The shutout was the Cubs’ ninth of the season, which leads all major-league teams. The franchise record since 1920 (the end of the Deadball Era, when there were many more low-scoring games and shutouts) is 18, set in 1969, tied in 1972. The major-league record is 27, held by the 1968 Cardinals. This Cubs team has allowed the fewest runs in the major leagues, 215, and also now lead in runs allowed per game (3.52)... and this despite some shaky performances out of the starting rotation.
The Cubs go for the sweep Sunday afternoon. Kyle Hendricks goes for the Cubs and Joe Musgrove starts for the Pirates. Game time Sunday is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be on WGN.