Lester flirts with no-hitter as Cubs beat Giants 2-1
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When Anthony Rizzo found out the eight-year anniversary of him being declared cancer-free fell on the same day fellow cancer survivor Jon Lester was pitching, he told Lester he was going to throw a no-hitter.
For 6⅔ innings, Lester made Rizzo look prescient.
Staked to an early two-run lead, Lester got two quick outs in the seventh before Hunter Pence hit a solo home run into the left-field bleachers. Lester was unfazed and finished off a complete-game three-hitter as the Cubs beat the Giants 2-1 for their fifth consecutive victory.
After giving up a two-out walk in the first, Lester (15-4) retired 18 consecutive hitters before Pence’s homer. During that stretch, Lester had Rizzo’s prediction on his mind.
“You go through the first inning, you think no-hitter,” Lester said. “Anybody that tells you different is lying to you. Every time you go out there, you know if you haven’t given up a hit or you don’t have any -baserunners. It’s obviously on -everybody’s mind.”
Lester was incredibly efficient, throwing 102 pitches, 68 for strikes. But he had plenty of help on defense. In the fifth, third baseman Kris Bryant made a diving catch on a line drive by Brandon Crawford. In the sixth, Dexter Fowler made a sliding catch on a fly ball by Kelby Tomlinson.
“I think the big thing was [the Giants] were aggressive,” Lester said. “I was able to keep the ball down and keep the defense active today Our defense has been fun to watch all year, and it makes our jobs a lot easier.”
Lester escaped trouble after allowing the homer to Pence. Crawford doubled, and Eduardo Nunez lined out sharply to Bryant.
“We ran into a very hot pitcher who’s throwing the ball very well and he was on top of his game,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “I will say we hit some balls hard right at them, too. We could’ve used a break on Nunez’s ball. He just hit it right at him, or right there the game is tied.”
The Cubs’ offense delivered in the third against Giants right-hander Albert Suarez (3-3). Javy Baez led off with a double and scored on David Ross’ double. After Lester advanced Ross to third with a sacrifice bunt, Fowler singled him home.
That was it for the Cubs, who had only two other hits all game.
Lester also allowed a double to Trevor Brown in the eighth and walked Pence in the ninth, but he persevered and made pitches when he had to have them most. He struck out Crawford looking to end it, just his fourth strikeout of the game.
“This is typical Jon,” Ross said. “He’s going to go out and keep you within striking distance, and he’s going to give you all he’s got every time he steps on the mound. He expects perfection out of himself, and I expect perfection out of catching him.”
The victory moved the Cubs 40 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 1945 season.
Follow me on Twitter @JeffArnold_.