Cubs get to Padres early, finish off three-game sweep

by - Senior Writer -
All eight starting position players tallied at least one hit for the Cubs on the day. (Photo Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)
All eight starting position players tallied at least one hit for the Cubs on the day. (Photo Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

SAN DIEGO — After scoring five runs in the first two innings, the Chicago Cubs coasted to a win over the San Diego Padres to close out the unofficial first half of the season on a positive note. Garnering a three-game sweep, the Cubs manufactured 10 hits in a well-rounded offensive performance, in which all eight starting position players accrued at least one hit.

The Cubs took control from the start, bringing three runs across in the first inning. After a five-RBI game on Saturday, Cubs second baseman Javier Baez tallied an RBI single to put the Cubs ahead 1-0. After that, Addison Russell hit a base knock to make it 2-0, and Ben Zobrist drove in a run on a fielder's choice groundout.

After scoring three runs on three hits in the opening frame, the Cubs continued to pound Padres starter Eric Lauer, with right fielder Jason Heyward increasing Chicago's lead to five with a two-run single in the second inning. The Padres had opportunities to score in the early goings but could only muster one run through five innings.

In the bottom of the second, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras gunned a throw to Baez for a successful pick-off at second base that squelched a Padres scoring threat.

San Diego experienced a very different turn of events while on defense in the top of the fourth. Catcher Austin Hedges suffered a particularly rough go of things in the fourth, as he committed two throwing errors. First, recent call-up David Bote stole second and reached third on Hedge's first error. Then, after Bote scored on a sacrifice fly by Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant made it all the way to third on swinging bunt, thanks to throwing errors by Hedges and right fielder Hunter Renfroe on the play. The Padres committed three total errors in the contest.

Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester earned his National League-leading 12th victory on the day, improving to 12-2 with a winning 5.1-inning outing. Striking out seven, Lester dominated for most of his start. One of his few mistakes came in the fourth, when Christian Villanueva hit a solo home run to put San Diego on the board. He then worked himself into a jam in the sixth that led to his departure.

Ironically, after Bryant was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the top half of the sixth, thus making the score 7-1, Lester hit a batter with the bases juiced in the bottom half of the same inning. Young reliever James Norwood was then brought on in relief of Lester, and, although he walked in a run with two outs, he remained composed and helped Chicago escape the predicament without suffering extensive damage.

Renfroe added a run in the seventh with a solo blast off Pedro Strop, which made the score 7-4, but the Padres never seriously threatened the Cubs late in the game. Closer Brandon Morrow attained his 22nd save of the year by shutting down San Diego in the ninth to secure the sweep and drop the Padres to 40-59. Standing at 55-38 heading into the All-Star break, the Cubs boast a 2.5-game lead in the National League Central, which is the largest divisional lead in the National League.

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