There’s no such thing as a must-win game in mid-May, but playing on Sunday night in front of a national audience with a one-game division lead has a little extra heft. Not that it mattered much to the Cubs, who tossed the Brewers around like rag dolls to further prove that their slow start was nothing more than a fluke.
Absent Anthony Rizzo, who was resting a tight back on a chilly evening that followed a 15-inning marathon, it was clear the rest of the lineup would have to step up against a pitcher who’d given them fits. Jhoulys Chacín was on his game Sunday, working the slider to near perfection and allowing just two total runs.
A brutal misplay by Kyle Schwarber nearly opened the door for the Brewers in the 4th, when he lost a pop fly by Christian Yelich to put a man on third to open the frame. After allowing a game-tying single, Lester set the next two batters out on strikes and gave up two more knocks to load the bases. But he got out of it and the Brewers wouldn’t score again.
The Cubs got the lead back the following inning after Kris Bryant, who had singled, raced around the bases on a Javy Báez double. Bryant homered with two out in the 7th to push the score to its final tally. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Won
Big Jon was as good as ever and managed to work around nine Brewers hits with the kind of mastery that only comes with experience. He has been such a tremendous asset to the Cubs since signing prior to 2015 and just seems to get better with age.
Bryant continues to make fools of anyone who doubted that he would be able to get back to his MVP form. With Sunday’s performance, he now has a .929 OPS and 149 wRC+ with five home runs in the last eight games.
Lester escaping the 4th inning with just one run allowed was huge. By going 6.2 innings on 116 pitches, he got to 38.2 innings on the season and became qualified for league leadership in various categories. With no earned runs allowed, he’s now at an MLB-best 1.16 ERA, though he’ll no longer qualify as soon as the Cubs play again Tuesday (must have as many innings pitched as games team has played).
Stats That Matter
- Bryant was 3-for-4 with 3 runs and 2 RBI, the latter on that laser beam home run
- Javy went 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI
- Most of Lester’s numbers are above, but striking out 6 with just 1 walk was huge
Simply put, this was the kind of game we saw from the 2016 Cubs: Go in there, do your business, and step on your opponent’s throat. The Brewers are not as deep and they aren’t as dynamic. The Cubs are the best team in the division and they showed why Sunday night.
The Cubs get Monday off, their last scheduled break in 16 days, before heading to Cincinnati for three games against the Reds. Kyle Hendricks will take the bump against Tanner Roark, with first pitch scheduled for 5:40pm ET on NBC Sports Chicago and 670 The Score.
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