Since joining the Cubs in 2014, Jon Lester has been the guy to right the ship and stop losing streaks before they can gain momentum. His last to outings, however, have been clunkers. Facing the best team in the American League, even without three of its stars, was not the easiest way to get back on track.
Lester was shaky again in the 1st inning, but he was able to limit the Astros to just one run and his offense got to work in the top of the 2nd. Jason Heyward returned to the lineup after a minor collision with Kris Bryant in the outfield on Sunday and made his presence known right away with a solo home run. Addison Russell followed with a solo home run of his own, after which David Bote got in on the act with, you guessed it, a solo home run to make it 3-1 Cubs.
Lester gave it all back and then some in the bottom of the 4th. A two-run double by Michael Brantley was the big blow of the inning, helping to extend the Houston lead to 6-3.
The Cubs offense would not go quietly into the night, however, as Bote cranked a two-run homer to bring the Cubs within a run. Kyle Schwarber tied the game at 6-6 with a solo blast shortly thereafter.
Lester drudged his way through five innings and almost made it through another before walking Derek Fisher with two outs. Brad Brach came on in relief of Lester and promptly served up a go-ahead two-run homer to Alex Bregman, his second of the evening, to make it 8-6.
The Astros added an insurance run in the 7th to increase their lead to 9-6, which ending up being the final as the Cubs could not mount a comeback. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Lost
Lester’s third subpar performance of the month was too much for the Cubs to overcome. Twice the Astros put together two-out rallies with no one on base, which ultimately was the difference in this one.
A two-run homer off the bat of Bregman in the bottom of the 6th inning gave the Astros the lead for good.
Stats That Matter
- Lester: 5+ innings pitched, 8 hits, 7 earned runs, 3 strikeouts, 3 walks
- Anthony Rizzo: 1-for-4, walk, hitting streak extended to 10 games
- Bote: 3-for-4, 2 home runs, double, 3 RBI, 10 total bases
- Heyward: 2-for-5, home run
- Russell: 1-for-2, home run, walk
On most nights, six runs on five homers would be enough to put a team in the win column. But Lester was not able to hold up his end and didn’t produce a one-two-three inning until 5th, at which point the damage had already been done.
On paper it looked as if the Cubs were catching the Astros at the right time with key guys like Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Carlos Correa all the injured list. However, less than noteworthy outings by the Cubs starters over the last three have been their downfall.
The series finale on Wednesday evening has Kyle Hendricks opposing Wade Miley. Game time is at 7:10pm CT and can be seen on NBC Sports Chicago and heard on 670 The Score.