Cubs

Jon Lester, Cubs can’t overcome Padres in rubber match loss

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Jon Lester, Cubs can’t overcome Padres in rubber match loss

Cubs manager Joe Maddon predicted before Sunday’s game everyone was finally going to see how good Jon Lester can be.

That premonition didn’t fulfill itself, though, as Lester lasted just 5 1/3 innings and the Cubs fell to San Diego, 5-2, in front of 29,113 fans at Wrigley Field.

Lester allowed three runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts, throwing 97 pitches before being lifted for Brian Schlitter in the sixth. Through three starts — a small sample size, of course — Lester has a 6.89 ERA and has yet to throw more than six innings.

[MORE: Cubs won’t overload Kris Bryant with too much information]

The Cubs jumped out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to some spotty defense from San Diego in the first. Dexter Fowler led off the inning with a single and advanced to second when right fielder Matt Kemp couldn’t cleanly field the ball, and he came around to score on Jorge Soler’s single.

The inning continued when first baseman Yangervis Solarte dropped a throw, allowing Starlin Castro to reach and Chris Coghlan to drive in Soler.

Will Middlebrooks blasted a two-run equalizing home run in the second, an inning which featured Lester — who’s struggled this year throwing the ball to first base — fielding a sharp comebacker and lobbing his glove, with the ball in it, to Anthony Rizzo for an out.

"I mean obviously that isn’t something you draw up. I was more surprised that I caught the ball more than anything," Lester said. "And then we you go to grab it and it’s not there. I thought I missed it or knocked it down or something.

It was the mad scramble there to figure out what was going on and obviously it happens in a matter of seconds. I would have liked to get the double play, but we’ll settle for the out. I never had to do that before but an out’s an out and I’ll take it any way I can."

Lester began the sixth by walking Kemp and giving up a single to Derek Norris. He retired Middlebrooks and was pulled for Schlitter, who got Jedd Gyorko to fly out before Will Venable jammed an 0-2 fastball into center for the go-ahead single.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

The Cubs’ offense floundered after its strong start against former North Sider Andrew Cashner, only reaching base once — a Kris Bryant double in the fifth — between the third and eighth innings.

Solarte ripped a two-run home run off right-hander Jason Motte in the seventh to give the Padres some breathing room. With two out in the ninth, Chris Denorfia chopped an infield single and Fowler bunted for a hit off Joaquin Benoit to put the tying run at the plate, but Soler struck out to end the game. 

Yu Darvish thinks Houston Astros should be stripped of 2017 World Series title

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USA Today

Yu Darvish thinks Houston Astros should be stripped of 2017 World Series title

The Astros' sign-stealing scandal is personal for a lot of players, though it probably hits a little differently for Yu Darvish. 

Darvish was a member of the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers team that Houston beat in the World Series. Darvish didn't have his best performance in the series and when asked about the scandal, the Cubs' pitcher didn't hold back:

It's a weird feeling. Like, in the Olympics, when a player cheats, you can't have a Gold medal, right? But they still have as World Series title. That makes me feel weird. That's it. And one more thing. With [Carlos] Correra talking about [Cody] Bellinger. I saw that yesterday. So they cheat, and I think right now that they don't have to talk. They shouldn't talk like that right now.

You can watch the video of Darvish's comments, from ESPN's Jesse Rogers, it right here.

The comments took on a life of their own, as Astros' soundbytes have been known to do over the last few weeks or so. Darvish was ready for the clapback, though, and delivered a final blow to some poor 'Stros fan who thought he could compete with Darvish on twitter dot com. 

Sign a lifetime contract, Yu. Never leave us.

Related: Bryant crushes Astros for cheating scandal: 'What a disgrace that was' 

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Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

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USA TODAY

Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

Jason Kipnis, who’s potentially the Cubs’ new second baseman but indisputably the pride of Northbrook, said there’s one major reason why his possible reunion with Wrigley Field is so exciting.

“Now I don’t have to hate the 'Go Cubs Go' song,” he quipped.

Kipnis was a late addition to the Cubs’ roster, and still not even a guaranteed one at that. After almost a decade spent being one of the Cleveland Indians’ cornerstones, Kipnis arrived in Mesa on a minor league contract, looking to win a job. Ironically, being with his hometown team is unfamiliar territory for the two-time All-Star. 

“[Leaving Cleveland] was hard at first,” he said. “You get used to the same place for 9-10 years, and I think it’s a little hard right now coming in and being the new guy and being lost and not knowing where to go. But it’ll be fun. It’s exciting. It’s kind of out of the comfort zone again, which is kind of what you want right now – to be uncomfortable. I don’t know, I’ve missed this feeling a little bit, so it’ll be good.”

It was a slow offseason for the second baseman, but the second baseman said he was weighing offers from several teams. Opportunity and organizational direction dictated most of his decision-making, but Kipnis admitted the forces around him were all, rather unsubtly, pulling him in one direction.

“They were telling me to take a deal, take a cut, whatever. Just get here,” he joked. “... It made sense, it really did. I think I didn't fully understand it until it was announced and my phone started blowing up and I realized just how many people this impacted around my life. Friends and family still live in Chicago, so it’s going to be exciting.”

The theme of renewed motivation has hung around Sloan Park like an early-morning Arizona chill, and Kipnis said part of the reason he feels the Cubs brought him in is to set a fire under some guys. He talked with Anthony Rizzo during the offseason, who talked about how the Cubs had struggled at times to put an appropriate emphasis on each of the 162 games in a regular season. That’s not a new problem in baseball, and it struck a chord with Kipnis, who himself was on plenty of talented Cleveland teams that never got over the hump. 

“They got a good core here. I’m well aware of that, they’re well aware of that, too,” he said. “I texted him and called him and asked him what happened last year, because I look at rosters, I look at St. Louis’, I look at all that, and I’m like, ‘I still would take your guys' roster.’” 

As for his direct competition, Kipnis said he hasn’t had a chance to really get to know Nico Hoerner yet, but doesn’t feel like the battle for second base has to be a contentious one by any means. At 32, Kipnis has been around long enough to understand the dynamics an aging veteran vs. a top prospect, and doesn't feel like it’s a situation where only one of them will end up benefiting. 

“I know he came up and had a pretty good success, so I think [it’s] going to be a competition, but at the same time, I’m not going to try to put him down,” he said. “I’d like to work with him, kind of teach him what I know too and hopefully both of us become better from it.”