A win Saturday night set the stage for a possible three-game sweep over the Padres, as the Cubs looked to head into the All-Star break on a roll.
Chicago wasted little time getting on the board in this one. Anthony Rizzo singled to lead off the game and advanced to second on a Kris Bryant walk. After Jason Heyward lined out, Javy Báez looped a single over short to give the Cubs an early 1-0 lead. An Addison Russell single scored another run, as did a Ben Zobrist ground out, making it 3-0 after a half inning.
The Cubs added two more runs in the 2nd. After Rizzo doubled with a man on to put runners at second and third, Heyward hit a slow grounder through the middle to knock in two, giving Chicago a 5-0 lead. Then in the 4th, David Bote walked, stole second and advanced to third on an error, setting the stage for a Rizzo sacrifice fly and a 6-0 advantage.
The Padres finally got to to starter Jon Lester in the bottom of the 4th, when former Cubs prospect Christian Villanueva hit a solo shot to left, his 19th home run of the season. The Cubs got that run back in the 6th when Bryant was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, making it 7-1.
Cubs pitching got a little sloppy from this point on. Lester loaded the bases with one out in the bottom half of the 6th before hitting Freddy Galvis to force in a run. That would put an end to Lester’s day, as the recently-promoted James Norwood was brought in to escape the jam. After retiring the first batter on a fly out, Norwood walked in another run before coaxing a fly out to record the final out of the inning with the Cubs still in front, 7-3.
San Diego added another run in the bottom of the 7th on a Hunter Renfroe homer to center, cutting it to a 7-4 Chicago lead. That would be all the Padres would get, however, as the Cubs held on to take game three and complete the series sweep (Box Score).
Why the Cubs Won
The Chicago offense put the team out in front quickly in this one and the pitching, while not the sharpest performance of the season, did enough to keep the Padres in check.
The Cubs felt comfortably ahead for most of the game, but things still got a little tight in the bottom of the 6th. Lester quickly recorded an out to start the frame before allowing single, walk, single to load the bases. Facing what was likely to be his final hitter regardless of the outcome, Lester hit Galvis to force in a run. After Norwood induced a pop out to third for the second out, the young righty walked the next hitter to force in another run and then proceeded to work the next hitter to a 3-2 count. With things starting to feel a little too close for comfort, Norwood got Manuel Margot to fly out to end the threat.
Stats That Matter
- Wil Myers came into this series as hot as anyone in the National League, hitting .310/.395/.704 with seven home runs and 17 RBI since returning from the DL on June 21. The Chicago pitching staff was able to keep him in check, however, as the San Diego outfielder was just 1 for 13 in the series with a single, a walk and six strikeouts.
- On the flip side, Rizzo was in the midst of an 0-for-21 streak at the plate as Chicago entered the series. After grounding out in his first at-bat on Friday, Rizzo proceeded to pick up six hits in the series, including three doubles, two walks, three runs scored and two RBI.
- It wasn’t the most efficient outing of the season for Lester, as the left-hander lasted 5 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits, three walks and seven strikeouts. While not his best performance, Lester still picked up the win and heads into the break at 12-2 with a 2.58 ERA.
- Bote was recalled back to the big leagues Sunday when Albert Almora Jr. was placed on the family emergency list. In his first game back with the Cubs, Bote had a walk, double, scored a run, stole a base and had at least three strong defensive plays at third. The more you see him play, the more you like what he brings to the team.
The Cubs took care of a down Padres team and, thanks to Milwaukee getting swept in a five-game series against Pittsburgh, made up 3.5 games over the weekend to vault into first in the NL Central.
The Cubs (55-38), who head into the break with a 2.5 game lead over the Brewers in the division, will resume play on Thursday as they begin a five-game series of their own against St. Louis (48-46, 7.5 GB) at Wrigley Field. While the Cardinals have yet to name a starting pitcher, Kyle Hendricks (6-8, 3.92) will get the nod for Chicago with first pitch set for 6:05 p.m. CT on ESPN.
Don’t forget to catch Kyle Schwarber and Javy Baez in the Home Run Derby tomorrow night at 7:00pm CT on ESPN. On Tuesday, Willson Contreras (C) and Javy Baez (2B) get the start for the National League All-Stars, with that game starting at 7:00pm CT on FOX.