It’d be hard to think of a victory more emblematic of the Cubs’ 2019 season than Saturday night’s affair at Guaranteed Rate Field. A 6-3 win over the White Sox had it all: a much-needed laborious 6 innings from Jon Lester, an uneven offensive performance, three errors in the field, and a 9th inning that ended with runners on 2nd and 3rd with the tying run at the plate. It wasn’t the model of winning baseball, but for the first time since early May, the Cubs have won consecutive games away from Wrigley Field.
“Team victory,” Joe Maddon said after the game. “We could have been a little bit cleaner - that’s one thing we really have to work on in the second half. I like formulaic wins, when you play catch properly and you don’t chase pitches out of the strike zone. That’s the next level for us, and it’s within us.”
During lengthy sessions with the media pregame, both Maddon and Theo Epstein talked about the need to play cleaner baseball in the field. The Cubs’ three errors on Saturday - two on poor throws from Javy Baez and Addison Russell and one on a misplayed ball by David Bote - accounted for two of the White Sox three runs.
Fortunately for the Cubs, Lester worked around all three with minimum damage. The lefty also walked three batters for the first time since their May series against the Astros. Despite below average control, Lester managed to get into the 6th inning for only the 2nd time in a calendar month.
“I feel pretty good,” he said. “There’s some stuff I’m working on right now, the last couple starts. I feel like it’s close. I was able to work around a few things tonight as far as how I threw the ball in certain innings, with kind of getting flat and whatnot. Overall, for the most part, I like where I’m at. I’ll just continue to build off it tonight and come back in another week and try to do it again.
“Lester really should have given up less than [3 runs],” Maddon added. “He continued to get better as the game was in progress. Everything was in order - fastball was up to 92, located the cutter, curveball was pertinent. I really enjoy watching Jon pitch when he’s in that kind of a groove.”
At the plate, the game turned on a 5-run 5th that saw 8 consecutive batters reach base. A comically soft bloop double from Kyle Schwarber -- who admitted that when he first hit it he thought he’d just grounded into a triple play -- broke open the 1-1 tie.
“Schwarber hit that ball and he did not even know where it was,” Maddon said. “He really did not know. And then he took off and ran - that’s kind of the big hit of the night. When you’re facing a pitcher like [White Sox starter Lucas Giolito] you’ve got to take advantage of everything because his stuff is that outstanding. And we did.”
Now the Cubs have one last game before they go their separate ways for the All-Star break. For all the talk about how rough the last couple weeks have been, they’re still in a position to head into the break on a three-game win streak, and hit the halfway point in first place.
“We come out of the break with three tough opponents,” Lester said. “We’ve just got to be ready to play. We’ll take this break, use it, and come out ready to go on Friday. We’ll be back home, which is nice, and hopefully we start out on a good note.”