Led by Lester, Cubs thwart Pirates to split the series


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Veteran starter Jon Lester threw 111 pitches on the evening and never seemed to miss a beat. (Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Veteran starter Jon Lester threw 111 pitches on the evening and never seemed to miss a beat. (Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

PITTSBURGH – Since the beginning of August, the Chicago Cubs have been good for at least one incredible offensive performance per week, and Thursday night's thrashing of the Pittsburgh Pirates by the North Siders proved to be just that, as the Cubs scored eight runs on 13 hits. Rookie slugger Ian Happ batted leadoff tonight, which proved to be a beneficial move for Chicago. Going 3-5 and scoring two runs, Happ teamed up with right fielder Jason Heyward and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who both collected two hits, to lead the Cubs to an 8-2 victory over the Buccos.

Chicago was very consistent at the dish on the evening, scoring one run in each of the first four innings and later scoring two runs in both the fifth and seventh innings. Teeing off against Pirates starter Jameson Taillon, who has not exactly fared well when facing off against the Cubs this season, the Cubs took an early lead after Happ singled and third baseman Kris Bryant doubled to begin the game, thus leading to a sacrifice fly by Rizzo.

Taillon struggled in the early goings of the next inning, too, as shortstop Javier Baez led off with a double and was brought home from third base soon afterward on a sacrifice bunt by catcher Rene Rivera. Yet another leadoff double for the Cubs in the third resulted in a 3-0 lead for Chicago, as Happ began the third inning with a double and was scored two at-bats later on an RBI single by Rizzo, which provided him with his 102nd RBI of the season.

Taillon failed to ever settle into rhythm, lasting only 4.2 innings on the hill and giving up a whopping 11 hits and six runs. Veteran Cubs starter Jon Lester, on the other hand, was solid, pitching six innings of five-hit ball and striking out five batters. Lester allowed just one run, which came on an RBI grounder from first baseman Josh Bell in the bottom of the third that scored left fielder Starling Marte.

Lester made up for it in the proceeding inning, though, by smacking an RBI double to deep center that scored Heyward from second to put the Cubs up 4-1. The two-bagger gave Lester his sixth RBI on the season. In the next inning, the Cubs essentially provided the Pirates with an insurmountable deficit, going up 6-1 and chasing Taillon from the game. Rizzo and Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist collected back-to-back hits to place runners on second and third with no outs for Chicago at the start of the inning. Then, with one out, Baez scored Rizzo on a grounder to the pitcher, and Heyward followed that up with a double that brought in Zobrist.

For good measure, Cubs center fielder Albert Almora, Jr., who has been playing well as of late, hit his sixth home run of 2017 in the seventh to push the Cubs' lead to seven runs. A two-run shot to left that scored Rizzo, the blast by Almora put the game out of reach for Pittsburgh.

The Pirates added a meaningless run on a double by right fielder Jordan Luplow in the eighth that plated center fielder Andrew McCutchen, but too much damage had already been done by the Cubs' bats. With the win, the Cubs (77-63) avoided a series loss, instead drawing a four-game split with the Pirates (67-74). Lester earned the win for his efforts to improve to 10-7 overall, and Taillon drew the loss to fall to 7-7 overall.

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