The Cubs looked for the four-game sweep of the Mets Sunday afternoon at Citi Field. After a marathon 14-inning win on Saturday night, they needed some length from starter Jon Lester. Lester provided more than enough of that length and the Northsiders displayed some excellent baserunning to secure the four-game whitewash.
Lester walked the first two batters he faced then struck out the next three. After that, Big Jon dominated the next six innings allowing the Mets only two hits. His counterpart Steven Matz was just as good, keeping an unusual Cubs lineup (Ben Zobrist, Anthony Rizzo, and Kris Bryant all had the day off) at bay through six.
Chicago finally broke through in the 7th inning, Javy Baez and Willson Contreras singled to put men on the corners with none out. Baez then stole home on a Matz pickoff attempt to first base to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. Contreras advanced to second on the throw and then third on a Kyle Schwarber infield single. Ben Zobrist hit for Addison Russell (who left with a finger contusion in the 5th) hit a pop fly to shallow right. Right fielder Jay Bruce hesitated and second baseman Luis Guillorme made a twisting catch, a heads up Willson tagged and scampered home to make it 2-0.
Randy Rosario and Steve Cishek combined to pitch the 8th inning with only a walk. Brian Duensing came on for the save chance in the 9th with Brandon Morrow down for the day. A leadoff walk was a erased when Adrian Gonzalez hit into a nifty 3-6-1 double play and Duensing preserved the 2-0 win. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Won
Lester pitched an excellent game, if not for a 24 pitch 1st inning he could have gone eight easily. The Cubs also did an outstanding job manufacturing their only runs in the 7th inning.
It appeared Baez’s steal of home was a set play, Contreras took a big lead to bait Matz into a throw over. Jose Bautista was way off the line at third allowing Javy to take a big lead toward home. With the Cubs trouble hitting with men in scoring position it was a smart gamble.
Stats That Matter
- Jon Lester gave his team exactly what it needed with an overused bullpen: 7 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 7 K, and 3 BB. His velocity is up to his usual 93 miles an hour and he has proved to be Chicago’s workhorse so far in 2018.
- Ian Happ made his first career start at first base and handled himself well. He also walked twice in four plate appearances.
- Kyle Schwarber also reached base twice on Sunday. His OPS is at .902 in 2018, I think his struggles from last season are safely behind him.
The Cubs just completed a 6-1 road trip and are a season-high 10 games over the .500 mark. They have put their slow start to the season behind them and are in a much better spot than the 2017 team was at this point.
Chicago has Monday off before starting a three-game series with the Phillies Tuesday at Wrigley Field. Kyle Hendricks matches up with Zach Eflin at 7:05 pm CT in a contest that airs on WGN.