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Szczur’s pinch-hit grand slam leads Cubs to 6-1 win over Braves

Chicago Cubs starter Jon Lester delivers a pitch against the Atlanta Braves Friday. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Cold and windy April days at Wrigley Field are not made for home runs.

Apparently, Matt Szczur never got the memo.

Szczur blasted a pinch-hit grand slam as part of a five-run eighth inning as the Cubs beat the Atlanta Braves 6-1 on Friday.

Anthony Rizzo continued his torrid April, driving in his 24th run of the season with an RBI single in the eighth that gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead before Szczur – who was inserted in left field in the top of the eighth for Jorge Soler – delivered his first career grand slam.

Pedro Strop, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning, picked up the win for the Cubs, who improved to 17-5.

The Cubs threatened in the seventh inning, loading the bases with only one out following an intentional walk to Addison Russell. But David Ross, who tied the game with an RBI single in the fifth inning, grounded into a double-play, leaving the score knotted at one. The Cubs got a lead-off double from Tommy La Stella in the eighth, but Dexter Fowler failed to move him over on a bunt that was fielded by Braves reliever Jim Johnson, who threw LaStella out at third before the Cubs loaded the bases and broke the game open with the five runs.

Cubs starter Jon Lester pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning. After a lead-off single, Lester offered up a wild pitch and a walk. With two on and no one out, Erick Aybar laid down a bunt that Lester – whose issues throwing to first base are well-documented – fielded cleanly, but never took out of his glove.

The mental lapse loaded the bases, but Lester managed to rebound quickly, though. Lester, who struck out 10 over seven innings, struck out  the next two hitters he faced before getting Nick Markakis to ground out to Rizzo, ending the Braves scoring threat.

Lester scattered seven hits while walking two. He gave up his lone run in the fourth inning when Braves’ third baseman Freddie Freeman launched his third home run of the year into the right field bleachers. The solo shot was only the fifth homer Atlanta has hit all season.