CUBS 9, CARDINALS 4
CHICAGO — It appeared initially that Jon Lester would not survive the first inning Saturday night.
The Cardinals teed off on him as if they’d requested every one of his pitches.
Marcell Ozuna hammered a 3-0 pitch 437 feet into the batter’s eye in center. Harrison Bader rocked a first-pitch fastball onto Waveland Avenue. Lester suddenly looked 45, not 35.
But then an incredible thing happened. After needing 36 pitches to get through the first, Lester completed the second in 22. Then 13, 10, 7 and 12 pitches for an even 100 through six.
And after trailing by four runs out of the gate, the Cubs stormed back for a 9-4 victory.
It made for a wild and wildly satisfying night at Wrigley Field as the Cubs took their second straight from the Cardinals. After getting swept last weekend in St. Louis, the North Siders can return the favor Sunday night.
The scenario seemed implausible after Lester got lit up. But he ended up earning the victory (5-4, 3.56) after the Cubs feasted on right-hander Jack Flaherty. And replacement John Brebbia. And the man who followed him, John Gant.
Among the many highlights: Javier Baez drove in Anthony Rizzo with one of the most uncommon occurrences on the diamond, a stand-up triple.
Kyle Schwarber got around so quickly on a Flaherty offering in the fourth, the ball rocketed into the seats down the right-field line. Both Schwarber and Flaherty looked away, fearing a repeat of the Albert Almora Jr. incident in Houston. But no one was hurt.
Schwarber, on the 11th pitch of the at-bat, crushed a fastball into the right-center field bleachers. That tied the game at 4, and it was Flaherty’s final pitch.
The Cubs stormed ahead in the sixth. With the bases juiced, Victor Caratini hit an opposite-field double that skipped past a sliding Ozuna. Jason Heyward trotted in, waving his arm. David Bote came home. And Almora, sans helmet, sprinted around for the Cubs’ seventh run.
Schwarber followed that by scorching a double to right.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to Kyle Ryan in the seventh.
Before the game Maddon was asked if his bullpen would contain three lefties in an ideal scenario.
Maddon replied that there probably wouldn’t be room for a third, what with right-handers Carl Edwards Jr., Brandon Kintzler, Brad Brach, Tyler Chatwood, Steve Cishek and Pedro Strop — not to mention the newly signed Craig Kimbrel perhaps 2-3 weeks away.
Maddon also spoke up for lefties Mike Montgomery and Ryan, who entered Saturday with a 4.79 ERA.
“If I continually put (Ryan) in the right sports, those numbers will come down,” Maddon said. “Those home runs in St. Louis (by Dexter Fowler and Harrison Bader), they probably shouldn’t have been on his record.”
Ryan pitched beautifully Saturday, striking out Fowler and Matt Wieters and getting a harmless grounder from Matt Carpenter.
The Cubs extended their lead to 9-4 on a sacrifice fly by Addison Russell, making his return after bruising his right hand Tuesday on a slide. Russell lofted a pitch to medium right, prompting an ambitious send by third base coach Brian Butterfield.
Wieters could not corral Fowler’s throw, allowing Bote to score.
The comeback was complete.