CHICAGO (AP) – Whether they were making neat grabs or nailing runners at the plate, the Chicago Cubs came through with one sparkling play after another.
It was just what Jon Lester needed.
The four-time All-Star won his fifth straight start, Javier Baez backed him with three hits and two runs, and the Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-0 on Wednesday.
“That’s what we’re capable of doing,” manager Joe Maddon said. “In the past when we’ve won at a high level, we’ve played outstanding defense. It never gets old. It never gets old to watch that kind of baseball.”
Lester (9-2) gave up five hits over seven innings, though he didn’t have his usual pinpoint command.
Baez had two doubles and a triple for a career-high three extra-base hits. He also stole a base and made some big plays at shortstop and second.
Kyle Schwarber hit his 14th homer. Kris Bryant added two hits and an RBI in his third straight game batting leadoff. And the Cubs handed Ross Stripling his first loss since April 30, taking two of three in a rematch of the past two NL Championship Series.
“We’ll be somewhere (in the playoffs) in October,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I can’t speak to the opponent, but we’ll be somewhere.”
Lester walked three and struck out one batter. Anthony Bass worked the final two innings to finish the six-hitter.
“I really didn’t have much today,” Lester said. “I was kind of grinding through that one.”
But he didn’t need his best stuff with the defense coming through in a big way.
Baez made a strong throw from deep in the hole at shortstop in the second inning to rob Logan Forsythe of a hit and had fans chanting his name in the eighth after a neat double play as the second baseman. He caught Justin Turner’s line drive and lunged to the bag to double off a diving Enrique Hernandez.
Right fielder Jason Heyward threw out Chris Taylor trying to score on Turner’s fly in the third.
Center fielder Albert Almora raced in for a diving grab on Yasiel Puig’s liner in the seventh. And the Cubs caught several balls on the warning track while winning for the 17th time in 25 games.
“Al comes in, dives for one and I’m just like, ‘OK, I’m done clapping for you guys,” Lester said. “It’s expected now that these guys can make these plays.”
Stripling (6-2) had won six straight starts. The right-hander went six innings, allowing three runs and eight hits while striking out seven without a walk. But the Dodgers dropped back-to-back games for the first time since they lost a season-high six in a row May 10-16.
Cubs starters have allowed one run or less in seven straight home games, matching Chicago’s longest streak since May 11-June 7, 1919, according to STATS.
Dodgers: SS Taylor exited with a tight left hamstring in the sixth. He said it started bothering him running the bases in the third, and he expects to be available Friday, when the Dodgers open a three-game series at the New York Mets. … INF Chase Utley (sprained left thumb) was ready to return from the disabled list. But the Dodgers decided to wait until Friday to activate him. “Kind of where we’re at with the pitching,” Roberts said. “He’s healthy and ready to go with us, but having some option-able players on the roster makes a lot of sense for us. Playing a doubleheader, three games in 24 hours, we’ve got to kind of see how things play out and give ourselves some options.”
Cubs: The Cubs placed closer Brandon Morrow (lower back tightness) on the 10-day disabled list. … RHP Yu Darvish (right triceps tendinitis) threw a simulated game. Maddon said he looked “outstanding,” and the Cubs will see how he feels Thursday before announcing the next step as he works his way back. … Maddon also said the Cubs are “very close” to mapping out a plan for Carl Edwards Jr. (right shoulder inflammation) to return from the DL.
Dodgers: LHP Alex Wood (2-5, 4.22 ERA) tries to win his second straight start as the Dodgers open a three-game series against the Mets on Friday. RHP Zack Wheeler (2-5, 4.82) pitches for New York.
Cubs: The Cubs open a four-game series at Cincinnati on Thursday, with RHP Kyle Hendricks (5-6, 3.55) going against RHP Matt Harvey (1-5, 5.92)
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