Lester pitches 5 solid innings as Cubs pound Reds 9-0
CHICAGO (AP) Jon Lester is looking sharp again, just in time for the Chicago Cubs.
Lester struck out seven over five innings, Kyle Schwarber hit his 30th home run and the Cubs pounded the Cincinnati Reds 9-0 on Saturday for their 15th win in 18 games.
Lester (13-8) allowed four hits and walked none in a possible tuneup for Game 1 of the NL Division Series against Washington. The veteran left-hander has allowed one run in 11 innings over his past two outings after posting an 8.22 ERA in his previous five starts.
”I feel good,” Lester said. ”The last two have been a lot better as far as being able to repeat, command the baseball and throw those different pitches. I kind of got back to throwing a lot more fastballs. But obviously, the teams and the guys you face dictate that as well, what you’re trying to do.”
Lester’s second straight win was a welcome development for the Cubs with Jake Arrieta coming back from a strained right hamstring. Kyle Hendricks also could start the playoff opener against the Nationals next Friday.
The defending World Series champions continue to roll along with the playoffs approaching and their sights set on another big run. They had their top players back in the lineup after resting most of them the previous two games with their second straight NL Central title locked up.
Schwarber finished with four RBIs. He hit a two-run drive in the second and a two-run single in the third against rookie Jackson Stephens.
”It’s a cool accomplishment,” Schwarber said of reaching 30 homers. ”But I’m more focused on the big picture here, which is the postseason coming up.”
Rene Rivera came off the bench to hit a two-run single in the sixth and a solo homer in the seventh.
Stephens (2-1) gave up four runs and four hits, and the last-place Reds lost for the 10th time in 11 games.
”I’m glad he’s had an opportunity to be here in the big leagues this year,” manager Bryan Price said. ”I think we’ve got a kid that’s just recently turned 23 years old. I think he’s gonna be good, and now he’s had an opportunity to get his feet wet up here, get some repetitions, gets some starts some relief opportunities, and I think he’ll be better for the experience heading into next season.”
Willson Contreras singled leading off the second and Schwarber drove the next pitch about halfway up the center-field bleachers, with a fan reaching out to make a neat catch. The home run was the sixth in 15 games for the slugger, who was sent to the minors after struggling early in the season.
Chicago had the bases loaded in the third when Schwarber shattered his bat on a bloop single to center. That brought in Ian Happ and Kris Bryant.
Joe Maddon became the fifth Cubs manager to move at least 100 games over .500. He is 292-192 in three seasons with Chicago – 1,073-921 in 14 years overall.
Reds: SS Zack Cozart (right quadriceps tightness) was held out of the lineup after playing on Friday. ”It wasn’t 100 percent yesterday,” Price said. ”I really want him to be able to play tomorrow.”
Cubs: Arrieta will throw a simulated game Wednesday, as will healthy LHP Jose Quintana. Though Maddon was not ready to announce his rotation for the NLDS, they would figure to start Game 3 and Game 4, if necessary, at Wrigley Field.
Left-hander Mike Montgomery (7-8, 3.45 ERA) starts the finale for the Cubs with Arrieta resting for the playoffs, while right-hander Deck McGuire (0-1, 4.15 ERA) makes his second career start for the Reds.
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