The Rundown: Lester Is Nails, Heyward Hammers, Cubs Continue Building MLB’s Best Record

Jon Lester openly worried last week that what was then still the potential cancellation of the Cubs’ series in St. Louis could slow the momentum the team had built. It was fitting, then, that he’d be on the bump for their first game back against the Indians in Cleveland. It was even more fitting that he did so as part of a team that had MLB’s best record despite taking the weekend off.

Neither Lester nor the Cubs showed signs of rust in Tuesday’s victory, with the lefty scattering three hits and two walks while allowing just his second run of the season. His groundball percentage improved over each of his previous starts and, while he’s allowed harder contact, opponents have only BABIP’d .176 against him over the past two games. You could see that as indicative of good luck that’s about to turn, or you take it as a sign that Lester’s pinpointing his spots.

The reality is that it’s probably a lot of both, though how much of which has yet to be seen. To be sure, this isn’t some fluke that necessarily has to correct itself with a run of clunkers, though we have seen such ups and downs from Lester in the past. Rather, it appears as though he’s tightened his self-aware embrace on his changing abilities and has also relaxed the governor that might otherwise have been in place over a full season.

It didn’t hurt that the Cubs backed their elder statesman with six runs of support, even if all but one of them came ahead of his final inning of work. Maybe the slow offensive start actually kept Lester on point, with Jason Heyward supplying just enough to keep his team out front early. His single in the 2nd gave the Cubs a slim margin, then his three-run jack in the 6th effectively put the game away.

Cubs News & Notes

  • The Cubs scored five runs with two outs. Cleveland hadn’t allowed more than four runs total in any previous game
  • Happy birthday, Ian Happ. The multifaceted center fielder turns 26 today and I’m drinking some of his Quarantine Coffee as I type this.
  • Happ’s 189 wRC+ leads the Cubs and ties him with some guy named Mike Trout for eighth in MLB.
  • Jason Kipnis received a video tribute in his return to Cleveland. The Northbrook native had spent 11 years as part of the organization since being drafted 63rd overall in 2009.
  • According to ESPN Stats & Info, this is the eighth time since 1900 that the Cubs have won 11 of their first 14 games. They made the World Series in five of the previous seven seasons and won three times.

Odds & Sods

The Cubs opted against letting fans purchase cardboard cutouts of themselves for the stands at Wrigley, but their were a few cardboard dignitaries in attendance for the team’s Sunday workout at Wrigley.

Find Your Inner Hero

The folks at 26 Shirts have a new design coming out soon that I think you’re all going to like, whether it’s the design itself or the reason behind it.

How About That!

The Athletics’ Ramón Laureano was suspended six games for his role in a benches-clearing “brawl” between his team and the Astros, which started after Laureano was beaned for the second time in the game and third time in the series. Upon being hit in the back by an Humberto Castellanos slider that didn’t slide, Laureano walked to first base while showing the righty how to properly snap the pitch. That’s when Astros bench coach Alex Cintrón “said in Spanish something you don’t say about my mother,” prompting Laureano to explode.

For his actions, Cintrón was suspended 20 more games than all Astros players were combined for actively cheating over the past few seasons. He offered a boilerplate apology that I won’t share here because you can already pretty much guess what he said. It’s pathetic that the Astros as an organization just can’t stop being assholes.

After starting the season 0-for-9, the Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon has gone 34-for-59 (.576) and is batting .500 on the season. He’s also 17-for-23 (.739) in his last six games, but his 1.3 fWAR is still third in MLB behind Mike Yastrzemski (1.4) and Fernando Tatis Jr. (1.7).

Adam Plutko started against the Cubs Tuesday in place of Mike Clevinger, who, along with Zach Plesac, partied with friends in Chicago over the weekend and are currently quarantining. More on that below.

Aaron Judge hit his ninth home run last night to take the MLB lead.

That’s about all for now, I’m running out of time.

They Said It

They hurt us bad. They lied to us. They sat here in front of you guys and publicly said things that they didn’t follow through on. It’s gonna be up to them, it really is. I’ll let them sit here and tell you how they’re gonna earn their trust back. I don’t need to put words in their mouths. The term that I continue to hear, and excuse my language, is “grown-ass man.” So those grown-ass men can sit here and tell you guys what happened and tell you guys what they’re gonna do to fix it. I don’t need to do that for them. – Plutko

We have to sit and look ourselves in the mirror. And it’s not about the person we see in the mirror, it’s who’s behind you. The other people. It’s not about that one person, it’s about everybody around you: The family members, the coaching staff, (Carlos) Carrasco, all the players on teams that are high-risk. We’re in a time right now with COVID, with racism, with everything. This is a time to be selfless. This is when we have to sit back and understand this is not about one person specifically. It’s about everybody. It’s about your neighbor and your neighbor’s neighbors. – Francisco Lindor

Wenesday Walk Up Song

out of sight by Run the Jewels (feat. 2 Chainz) – For whatever reason, I never listened to RTJ prior to their recently-released fourth album. The tracks are bass-heavy and filled with socially-conscious lyrics, which is all right up my alley even if it probably doesn’t fit most of this column’s regular readers. This song strikes me not just for its overall content, but for the guest verse that includes the line, “I buy a hot dog stand if I’m tryna be frank.”

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