It was an emotional night all around Monday at Wrigley Field, as left-hander Jon Lester and outfielder Kyle Schwarber returned to face the Cubs as members of the Nationals.
Both received a round of applause from the fans in attendance before the game, and the Cubs played a tribute video in honor of Schwarber before the first pitch. He responded by hitting a two-run home run in the fourth inning.
Otherwise, it was business as usual in the Cubs’ 7-3 victory, with their hitters making Lester’s homecoming a little tougher as the bats continued their recent success.
The Cubs had good swings against Lester all night and made plenty of loud contact against him in his 5„ innings. They took an early 1-0 lead, courtesy of a sacrifice fly by Anthony Rizzo in the first, before playing long ball.
Jason Heyward came into the game hitting .417 (10-for-24) in his career against Lester and looked comfortable against him in the second, blasting a two-run homer to the opposite field to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead.
‘‘I just feel like he’s starting to find his timing a little bit,’’ manager David Ross said of Heyward. ‘‘That’s definitely a good sign. Left-on-left, staying up the middle, and he comes up with that big insurance run [with an RBI single in the eighth]. . . . Hit the ball hard and stayed on a tough lefty in Jon. Going the other way in the air was really nice to see.’’
Neither Willson Contreras nor Javy Baez had faced Lester before Monday, but both got the better of him. Contreras took his longtime batterymate deep in the third, with his solo homer giving the Cubs a 4-1 lead.
‘‘It was really strange,’’ Contreras said. ‘‘I wanted to laugh. I wanted to smile, but he was super-serious. He was so focused, and I know that he’s a gamer. But, yeah, I felt strange facing him now that he’s on another team.’’
After Schwarber’s homer pulled the Nationals to 4-3, Baez got in on the action in the sixth. His 415-foot blast extended the Cubs’ lead to 5-3 and ended the night for Lester, who allowed five runs and eight hits, struck out four and walked none.
The offense has started to carry the Cubs in May and has helped ease the pressure on the team’s pitching staff.
Right-hander Adbert Alzolay picked up his second victory of the season, allowing three runs and five hits in five innings. He struck out three without allowing a walk.
Alzolay has embraced being matched up against the best in the game, but he took the mound Monday against a mentor and someone he looked up to while coming up in the Cubs’ system. He said he could feel the energy pumping through the ballpark when he was on the mound, and the passion from the fans is something he’s ready for more of.
‘‘It just tells you how much the city loves their players,’’ Alzolay said. ‘‘I feel that whenever you do something good for this team and this city, the fans are always going to give it back to you, no matter what.
‘‘The standing ovation for Schwarber and for Jonny Lester was well-deserved. I think those two guys are legends here.’’