After one of his finest performances for the Chicago Cubs, Jon Lester will try to keep his momentum going by adding to his mastery of the Philadelphia Phillies.
The left-hander earned his latest win over Philadelphia less than two weeks ago and will seek to improve to 6-0 in eight career matchups in Monday night's series opener at Citizens Bank Park.
Lester (6-3, 2.29 ERA) pitched a four-hitter with 10 strikeouts and went the distance for the first time this season in Wednesday's 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I really think that might have been the best I've seen Jonny since he's been here,” manager Joe Maddon said.
Lester yielded two runs in 6 1/3 innings while fanning seven in a 6-2 victory over Philadelphia on May 27. With just one of those runs earned, the left-hander lowered his career ERA versus the Phillies to 1.71 and got the Cubs (39-16) started on a three-game sweep at Wrigley Field.
Chicago had won 10 of 11 until Sunday's 3-2 defeat to Arizona that was also Jake Arrieta's first loss in 21 decisions.
“I like the fact that we were upset that we lost,” Maddon told MLB's official website. “I love that. None of the guys accept that. But an 8-2 homestand? I think we'll take that the rest of the summer.”
Philadelphia (28-29) had dropped eight of nine until an 8-1 rout of Milwaukee on Sunday. Jimmy Paredes provided a three-run shot – his first homer for the Phillies – in a five-run fifth inning.
The Phillies matched a season high with 13 hits after batting .197 with 21 runs in their prior nine games. They homered three times in a game for the first time since April 7.
“When a pitcher gets a ball up in the zone, we want to attack it,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “And up until today, we haven't done enough of that. Hopefully this is the start of something big for us.”
The Phillies will send out a struggling Adam Morgan (1-4, 7.07), who was the loser in last month's matchup with Lester. Morgan gave up six runs in four-plus innings in that game and yielded another six in six innings in a 7-2 defeat to Washington on Wednesday, dropping to 0-4 with a 9.61 ERA in his last four starts.
Morgan has allowed five homers in his past two outings and gave up a season-high three to Chicago. David Ross hit a three-run shot while Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler had solo homers.
“He's got stuff. There's a lot of guys that have stuff, but in order to be successful, you can't make mistakes. You have to keep the ball down in the zone and hit the corners,” Mackanin said. “That's how you become a good major league pitcher. He's got the stuff to do that, the instinct to do it. But this is a result-oriented business, especially here.”
It's unclear if Mackanin will put Ryan Howard back in the lineup to open this series instead of rookie Tommy Joseph. Howard, batting .151 this season, was limited to pinch-hit appearances in the first five games this month. Joseph started at first base in his place and went 7 for 16 with a homer in the past four contests.
Chicago leading hitter Ben Zobrist went 5 for 12 with four RBIs in the sweep of the Phillies but is 0 for 13 over the past five games.