Cubs

Cubs: Jon Lester rights the ship as Kris Bryant hits walk-off homer

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Cubs: Jon Lester rights the ship as Kris Bryant hits walk-off homer

Jon Lester got 26 outs before allowing a run Monday afternoon, but it was that final out that eluded him.

In the midst of a tense 1-0 game, Lester let up a two-out, RBI single to Cleveland Indians cleanup hitter Carlos Santana before the Cubs walked it off in the bottom of the ninth for a 2-1 win in front of 36,283 fans at Wrigley Field.

Kris Bryant drilled the first pitch he saw from Indians reliever Zach McAllister into the right-field bleachers for a two-out, walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth after Chris Coghlan and Anthony Rizzo had struck out to begin the frame.

[RELATED - Cubs dealt tough blow as Jorge Soler, Jason Motte end up on DL]

The Cubs lead the majors with 12 walk-off wins this season.

"We believe in ourselves. It's someone new every day," Bryant said. "That's just the way it's been going this year. We're riding the wave and it's a good one."

Lester admitted it's easy to forget Bryant - who also hit two homers in Sunday's win - is a rookie at times.

"He plays above his age and experience," Lester said. "I think that's kinda what's expected of him. These young guys that have come up have all played above where they're at as far as their level of age and experience.

"That's a testament to how this organization raises these guys in the minor leagues."

After allowing three homers and seven runs in just 2.2 innings against the Detroit Tigers in his last start, Lester let up just one run in 8.2 innings Monday, permitting only six singles. He kept the ball on the ground all day and the Cubs defense turned four double plays behind him.

But it wasn't good enough to win as Indians ace and reigning American League Cy Young winner Corey Kluber held the Cubs offense in check with one run on four hits, striking out 11 in 7.2 innings.

Kluber took a perfect game into the sixth inning until he allowed a David Ross one-out single.

The win was the Cubs' fifth straight and 20th since July 29, which leads Major League Baseball.

"Guys are just confident," Lester said. "Guys are happy to be here, having fun, messing around. Today was a grind, but guys are still having fun in the dugout. It's been fun to see."

Case in point:

 

 

With the San Francisco Giants off Monday, the Cubs extended their lead for the second wild card to 6.5 games with the victory.

The Cubs took advantage of an extended stay in Chicago (19 days, 17 games), going 14-3 during their stretch in the Windy City which included 14 games at home and three on the South Side.

The Cubs now embark on a tough West Coast road trip, beginning with a showdown against the Giants Tuesday night.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Even though they've been on a hot streak and the postseason seems so close, the Cubs know they have to stay grounded.

"We gotta worry about now," Lester said, "and not worry about wild card or the division or any other type of series right now. We have to worry about the task at hand."

Echoed Bryant: "It's just the same mindset we've had this past month. We've been feeling really good and I think we can't change anything.

"We dont need to think differently or play differently, just go out and do what we've been doing and things will take care of themselves."

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

Carmen DeFalco (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel. Anthony Rizzo returns to the Cubs after an emotional weekend home while Tom Ricketts expects another World Series parade. Plus Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joins Kap to talk about his Cubs reunion and how the current crop unsigned free agents compares to his experiences with collusion.