SAN FRANCISCO – With Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park, the Cubs have scored three or fewer runs in five of six games.
But the actual aberration for the team with the best record and by far the biggest run differential in the majors was this one:
Cubs starter Jon Lester lasted just 2 2/3 innings Saturday – knocked out in a three-run Giants third, after giving up a two-run double to pitcher Matt Cain in the second.
“Hard-hit balls. Bad location,” Lester (4-3) said.
And an end to one of the most impressive streaks in baseball.
Until Saturday, the Cubs had gone 48 consecutive games, dating to last September, with at least five innings pitched from their starter, the franchise’s longest streak since at least 1910.
They are just the third major league team in 111 years to open a season with 40 consecutive five-inning starts, and seventh since 1900 – including a 115-game streak in 1900 by the Orphans/Cubs. (Complete list below).
“Our rotation’s been pretty solid,” said Lester, understating the contribution so far this season of the top-ranked rotation in the majors. “We’ve been doing what we’re supposed to do, keeping our team in the ballgame and putting up innings, with the exception of today. It’s been fun to be a part of.”
First baseman Anthony Rizzo said the rotation hasn’t received enough credit for the Cubs’ big start this season.
“But that’s good,” he said. “I think it’s good they stay under the radar. Our offense gets a lot of the attention all of the time. Let them just keep going and doing their thing. It’s mid-May. We’re in good position.”
The Cubs’ fourth loss in six games dropped them to 4-6 in their last 10.
“We all knew coming in our rotation was going to be pretty strong,” Lester said, “and we have to be strong if we want to go where we want to go. So back to work tomorrow and figure this thing out.”
Notes: The seven teams in big-league history since 1900 to open a season with at least 40 consecutive starts: 2016 Cubs (40), 2015 Mets (40), 1981 Pirates (45), 1905 Giants (45), 1903 Americans/Red Sox (40), 1902 Superbas/Dodgers (78), 1900 Orphans/Cubs (115) … Kris Bryant’s third-inning homer was his second in as many games … Dexter Fowler’s homer leading off the ninth was his second in three games … The Cubs’ 29 wins in their first 40 games had been accomplished by the franchise only twice before (since 1900): 1903 (29-11) and 1907 (31-9) … Friday’s winning pitcher, Jake Arrieta, has allowed three or fewer runs in 29 consecutive games – which, according to Elias Sports Bureau, is the longest such streak since the pitching rubber was moved to 60 feet, 6 inches from the plate in 1893.