The Cubs went for the three-game sweep against the Dodgers Thursday at Wrigley Field with Jon Lester making his return to the mound. He looked very good, but his teammates couldn’t take advantage of several scoring chances and LA salvaged a win.
Lester didn’t allow a run through his first four innings and only surrendered two hits. The Cubs failed to come through despite putting two runners on each in of the first two innings against Dodgers starter Ross Stripling. As such, the score remained tied early.
Alex Verdugo led off the top of the 5th with a triple to center field and Chris Taylor followed with a hard grounder to Javy Báez at short. Báez glanced at Verdugo at third to make sure he wasn’t heading home and the ball deflected off his glove for an error. Lester was able to limit further damage that inning thanks to a double play, but the Dodgers had a 1-0 lead.
The Cubs got two runners on against the Los Angeles bullpen in both the 6th and 7th innings as well. An Anthony Rizzo fly out and a Ben Zobrist double play ended those respective threats. Brad Brach went two scoreless in relief of Lester, who was removed after hitting his 80-pitch limit.
Randy Rosario took over in the 8th and did not have it, to say the least. He threw five consecutive balls before an visibly perturbed Joe Maddon pulled him mid at-bat. Don’t expect to see Rosario back again anytime soon. Brandon Kintzler came on and got an out on a grounder to second that just missed being a double play, then got the hook after he plunked Justin Turner to put two on with one out.
Kyle Ryan would then walk Max Muncy to load the bases for Cody Bellinger, not a wise baseball strategy for those of you studying the finer points of the game at home. Bellinger just missed a home run, but his fly to left was plenty deep enough to score the Dodgers’ second run.
That run turned out to be critical, as the Cubs were able score one in the bottom of the 9th when Albert Almora Jr. took Dodger closer Kenley Jansen deep for a solo homer to center. I’m as confused as all of you are, but that is what happened. Jansen was unfazed and struck out David Bote swinging to preserve the 2-1 LA win. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Lost
The pitching was good against a very frightening Dodger lineup. Leaving eight men on base in a one-run game is just not going to work most days. The home team had more than enough chances, but the big hits from Wednesday night just didn’t materialize.
Zobrist batted with men on first and second and one out in the 7th inning and smashed a ball 105 mph right up the middle. As was the Cubs’ luck Thursday, Kiké Hernández was standing right behind second to make it an easy 4-3 double play.
Stats That Matter
- Lester showed almost no rust in first his outing off the injured list: 5 IP, 1 R, 4 H, 0 BB, 5 K. His control was good and his velocity was actually a bit up.
- Almora has been in a massive funk, so maybe finally punishing a baseball like he did off Jansen will get him going.
- Brach is starting to look like the guy the Cubs hoped he would be. His velocity is up to 94 and he has looked good two games in a row.
As fun as a sweep would have been, winning two of three from a very good Dodger team is definitely acceptable. Most importantly, Lester looks healthy and as crisp as he did early in the season.
The Cubs start a three-game series in Arizona against the D-Backs Friday at 8:40pm CT. Robbie Ray, who pitched well at Wrigley on Sunday, faces off against Kyle Hendricks, who also was good last time out. NBC Sports Chicago has the telecast and radio as always is on 670 The Score.