Cubs

Lester, Cubs continue dominance in Cincinnati, move to MLB-best 13-4

Lester, Cubs continue dominance in Cincinnati, move to MLB-best 13-4

CINCINNATI (AP) Jon Lester had a no-hitter in the back of his mind. He wound up giving up five hits, but gave the Chicago Cubs what they needed most.

Lester provided a fitting follow-up to Jake Arrieta's no-hitter by going seven innings on Friday night, and Anthony Rizzohomered for the third consecutive game, leading Chicago to an 8-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

The Cubs improved to 13-4, the best record in the majors and one of the best starts in the last 100 years. They also opened 13-4 in 1908 - the last time they won the World Series - and in 1970. The 1907 team went 14-3 on its way to a Series title.

"It just helps us relax," Lester said of the impressive start. "The scary part for opponents is you look up and some of our guys are not swinging the bat too great. But our pitching has been real consistent. It's going to be the backbone of this team and take us where we want to go."

Arrieta threw his second career no-hitter in the series opener on Thursday night, a 16-0 win. Lester (2-1) limited the Reds to four singles and Zack Cozart's solo homer.

Pitchers always try to match each other, and Lester had Arietta's no-hitter in mind when he took the mound.

"We think about it, the possibilities of `what if,'" Lester said.

Against the Reds, they've done a little of everything, outscoring them 46-7 while winning their five games this season.

"They have a nice club, and they do the type of things they have to do to get pitches to hit," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Give them credit."

Rizzo had a three-run homer during the series opener. He hit a solo shot - his team-high sixth - off Jon Moscot (0-1) as the Cubs pulled ahead 4-0 in the fourth inning. They are 12-0 this season when scoring at least four runs. David Ross had a sacrifice fly, and Ross and Lester squeezed home runs with sacrifice bunts.

The Cubs put it away with four runs in the ninth off J.J. HooverJavier Baez hit a solo homer - the 16th allowed by Cincinnati's bullpen in 17 games - and the Cubs hit three consecutive RBI doubles.

The Cubs have won their last eight games overall against the Reds. They have taken six straight in Cincinnati, their longest such streak since 1945-46.

Cincinnati managed to hit only six balls out of the infield during Arrieta's no-hitter. They got their first hit in the series in the first inning off Lester when Joey Votto snapped his 0-for-19 slump with a check-swing single. They failed to get a runner to third base until Cozart led off the sixth inning with his first homer.

ROAD SUCCESS

Chicago is 18-2 on the road since the end of last season, including 9-2 this year.

SELLING FAST

Cubs fans bristled that their "Try Not To Suck" T-shirts weren't allowed at Busch Stadium this week because of the Cardinals' long-standing policy prohibiting shirts with the word. Cubs manager Joe Maddon came up with the slogan and designed the shirt to raise money for his foundation. The dust-up resulted in a spike in sales of the $30 shirts, with $56,000 raised in the last two days. That puts the season total over $500,000 from shirt sales.

SHUFFLING THE `PEN

The Reds reshuffled their struggling bullpen, designating RHP Tim Melville for assignment and calling up RHP J.C. Ramirez. Melville gave up four runs and two homers during the 16-0 loss on Thursday. Cincinnati's bullpen has a 6.89 ERA that's worst in the NL. Reds relievers have thrown the most innings in the NL (62 2/3) and allowed the most homers (16) and walks (37).

TRAINER'S ROOM

Reds: CF Billy Hamilton missed a second straight game with a sore left thumb, injured while trying to make a catch at the wall in St. Louis last weekend.

UP NEXT

Cubs: John Lackey tries to open a season 4-0 for the first time in his career. He threw seven innings at St. Louis for a 5-0 win on Monday.

Reds: Dan Straily (0-0) makes his first appearance and second career start. He opened the season in the bullpen but was moved into the injury-depleted rotation.

Joe Maddon goes after Sean Doolittle's delivery: ‘That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do’

Joe Maddon goes after Sean Doolittle's delivery: ‘That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do’

The Cubs finished Saturday's loss at the Nationals under protest after Joe Maddon saw what he believed to be an inconsistency in how illegal pitches are being called.

Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle came in to close the game out in the ninth with the Nats up 5-2. After one pitch, Maddon went to the umpires to complain. This dragged on throughout the inning.

Maddon didn't like that Doolittle's delivery involved him pausing and potentially even touching the ground in the middle of his wind up before coming home with the pitch. To Maddon, it was clearly an illegal pitch and he was fired up because that's something Carl Edwards Jr. got called for earlier in the season. By comparison, Edwards' version may be more deliberate, but Maddon thinks it is the same thing.

"That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do," Maddon said postgame in a video posted by ESPN's Jesse Rogers. "There's no judgment. If he taps the ground, it's an illegal pitch, period. There's nothing to judge. You can judge whether he did or not. It's obvious that he did, or if you can't tell that then there's something absolutely wrong."

Maddon and the Cubs protested the game as a result. If they win the protest, the game would be restarted with one out in the ninth, when Maddon notified the umpires of the protest.

Doolittle was less than amused by Maddon's protest.

"I have no qualms against Doolittle," Maddon said. "He's great, but they took it away from our guy so for me to sit in the dugout and permit that to happen while they stripped us of that ability earlier this year with Carl, how could I do that? You can't do that. I got to say something."

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Jon Lester's hot streak comes to an end at Nationals

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USA TODAY

Jon Lester's hot streak comes to an end at Nationals

Jon Lester was on a heck of a run since coming off the IL in late April, but it came to a screeching halt on Saturday.

Lester had by far his worst start of the season at the Nationals in a 5-2 Cubs loss. He labored through his start, giving up five runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Lester gave up 10 hits, which matches the most he has given up since joining the Cubs. He gave up a fair number of hits in his last two starts, but was able to avoid trouble on the scoreboard. Lester gave up nine hits in 6 2/3 innings against the Brewers last time out, but only gave up an unearned run. On May 7, Lester gave up eight hits to the Marlins, but only allowed two unearned runs in six innings of work.

This time, Lester couldn’t stay out of trouble. Brian Dozier got the Nats on the board with a solo shot in the second and then the wheels came off in the third.

To open the third inning Lester gave up six straight hits. The Nats got three runs that inning and then added another in the fifth, when Lester departed the game.

Since Lester came off the IL on April 25, he had allowed just one earned run (four runs in total) in 24 2/3 innings. During that stretch, he had 25 strikeouts against just two walks. His ERA fell to 1.16, which would have led all of baseball if he had enough innings to qualify. It’s at 2.09 after Saturday’s loss.

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