(The Sports Xchange) - Jon Lester led the Cubs to a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday and a split of a doubleheader between the two National League contenders.
Lester (10-10) pitched his first complete game for the Cubs, who signed him to a six-year, $155 million contract as a free agent in December, as he struck out nine and walked one.
“This is what he does,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He likes pitching in big games in the latter part of the season. It’s not a surprise.”
The Cubs (83-61) ended a three-game losing streak and got to within four games of the Pirates, who lead the NL wild-card standings.
Left fielder Starling Marte’s sacrifice fly in the eighth inning had given the Pirates a 5-4 victory in the first game.
While Lester is excited to be pitching meaningful games in September for a franchise that has not been to the post-season since 2008, he is well aware that the Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908.
“When I signed here, I envisioned winning a World Series, not just playing September baseball,” Lester said. “Hopefully, we can get to that point.”
Catcher David Ross and third baseman Javier Baez had two hits each for the Cubs in the second game.
Pirates left-hander J.A. Happ (5-2) saw his five-start winning streak end as he allowed two runs and eight hits in 5-2/3 innings while striking out eight and walking two.
The Cubs scored a run in the first inning as left fielder Austin Jackson doubled and came home on first baseman Anthony Rizzo’s single.
Ross doubled and scored on center fielder Dexter Fowler’s double in the second to increase the Cubs’ lead to 2-0.
Third baseman Aramis Ramirez had two hits and scored the lone run for the Pirates, when he came home on Morse’s double-play grounder in the seventh to get the Pirates within 2-1.
Lester, though, retired his final seven batters in a 111-pitch effort.
“The thing that I loved was the maintenance of stuff,” Maddon said.
“The fastball still had good carry in the last inning. He was throwing 94 (mph) in the eighth. You could see by the hitters’ swings. They were not very comfortable.”
Compiled by Greg Stutchbury