Lester wins 4th straight as Cubs dominate Braves
Photo: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
A day after crushing the Atlanta Braves (18-44) 8-2, the Chicago Cubs (43-18) saw that six-run margin of victory and raised it an 11-run margin of victory in the series finale. The 13-2 win provided the Cubs with their second victory of the three-game series and moved starting pitcher Jon Lester to 8-3 on the year.
Arguably pitching better than any other Major League pitcher right now, Lester was fantastic on Sunday, giving up only five hits and one run in seven innings pitched. Of course, the bevy of run support that he has received lately has aided his cause, and the Cubs batters did not disappoint on Sunday afternoon.
Taking advantage of back-to-back one-out walks in the first inning, Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo crushed a double towards the right field wall that scored the lead runner and advanced the other runner to third. Rizzo was magnificent on the day, amassing three RBI on three hits to take sole possession of first regarding team RBIs, as he has garnered a whopping 47 of them this year.
Capitalizing on a throwing error by current Cubs and former Braves catcher David Ross in the bottom of the first, the Braves tied the game up at one run apiece. However, it was all downhill from there for the worst team (record-wise) in the National League, as the Cubs nearly shut them out for the remainder of the game.
Ross made up for his throwing mishap soon after, driving in a run on a single in the bottom of the fourth. The very next at-bat, Lester, definitely not known to have any hitting prowess whatsoever, laid down a terrific sacrifice bunt up the first-base line that brought in an additional run and gave the Cubs a 3-1 lead.
Rookie Atlanta pitcher John Gant, previously used as a reliever, made his first career start on Sunday, and although he earned the loss, the true losers were the relievers who let the game get out of hand.
Gant exited after five innings pitched, and his replacement, Casey Kelly, gave up a run in his wake, with Ross again coming through in the clutch against his former team, this time with a single that scored a runner from third. The runner, outfielder Chris Coghlan, was making his first start for the Cubs in 2016, as he was traded back to Chicago from the Oakland Athletics this past week. Coghlan was a valuable member of the Cubs’ outfield last season, serving as a mentor for the likes of Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler.
As for Ross, he had two hits and two RBI on the day, and right fielder Jason Heyward, another former Brave, had himself a game, too, going 3-4 at the plate and scoring three runs. One of those runs came in the three-run top of the seventh that put the game virtually out of reach for Atlanta. An inning that featured a booming two-run double off the bat of second baseman Ben Zobrist, as well as a bases-loaded walk of Ross, the Braves’ bullpen imploded in the seventh.
Down 7-1 entering the eighth, the Braves suffered through another torturous inning, as the Cubs scored six runs. With a one-out Heyward single and an ensuing walk of third baseman Kris Bryant, his third of the game, setting the stage, the Cubs poured in the runs in the top of the eighth. With Rizzo, Zobrist and outfielder Albert Almora hitting three consecutive singles that scored three runs, infielder Javier Baez made the game an absolute shellacking with his three-run homer to left that capped off the high-scoring top half of the inning.
Though the Braves added a truly meaningless run in the bottom of the eighth, their overall offensive performance was true to form. Entering the game last in the Majors in batting average, the Braves’ pitching displayed just as much impotence on Sunday.
Despite committing four errors, the Cubs dominated the Braves in the series finale with their 16 hits. The Cubs will continue their nine-game road trip against NL East teams tomorrow when they begin a three-game series versus the division-leading Washington Nationals (38-24). Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks will have his work cut out for him, as he will face off against Nats ace Max Scherzer in the series opener.
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