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Cubs historical sleuthing: PNC Park edition

You might not think there are enough clues here; you just need to know where to look.

BCB regular Vermont Cubs Fan sent me this photo, and it’s obviously taken from the upper deck in right field at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

Beyond that, though, everything’s in the far distance, and the scoreboard’s a bit blurry.

Going under the assumption that VCF is sending me a photo of a game where the Cubs played at PNC, I had a closer look, enlarging portions of the photo until I could get some clues.

The very first thing that caught my eye was the Pirates’ first-base coach. He’s wearing No. 16.

There’s only one man who did that in recent years: Nick Leyva, who was the Bucs’ first-base coach in 2015 and 2016, so that narrows things down considerably.

There’s a lefthanded Cubs pitcher on the mound, and even at the distance the photo’s taken at, it looks very much like Jon Lester.

So I checked games Lester threw at PNC in 2015 and 2016.

Sure enough, we have a match. This is from the second game of a doubleheader Tuesday, September 15, 2015. Even though the scoreboard’s a bit blurry, we can see the game is in the bottom of the eighth inning and Starling Marte is batting for the Pirates with two out. We can also see from the photo that there’s no one on base. There’s a 2-2 count on Marte; eventually, he struck out to end the inning.

This was one of Lester’s best games as a Cub. He threw a complete game, allowing five hits and one run, striking out seven. The Cubs won the game 2-1; it was the first win of what turned into a five-game winning streak.

After a terrible first month in a Cubs uniform in April 2015, Lester posted a 2.99 ERA and 1.069 WHIP in his last 28 starts that year. And, of course, the Cubs would win a much more important game at PNC Park about three weeks later.

During the middle 2010s, MLB put pretty much every completed game on YouTube. If you’re interested, here’s the entire game: