By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — On the 44th anniversary of the last no-hit game by a Cubs pitcher at Wrigley Field, left-hander Jon Lester got within seven outs of throwing the second no-hitter of his career.
The 32-year-old Lester cruised through the Giants’ lineup for 6 2/3 innings, allowing just a first-inning walk to Buster Posey to that point.
“You go through the first inning, you think no-hitter,” Lester admitted about his mindset every time out. “Any pitcher who tells you different is lying to you. Every time you go out there, you know when you haven’t given up a hit or have no base-runners. Yeah, it’s obviously on everybody’s mind.”
The no-hitter was broken up when Giants outfielder Hunter Pence drilled a 2-2 pitch into the left-field bleachers for his 10th homer of the season. That would be San Francisco’s only damage of the day, as Lester threw a complete-game three-hitter to lead Chicago to a 2-1 win. He improved to 15-4 while striking out four and walking two.
“Yeah, it was a terrible pitch,” Lester said of the home run ball. “I had a decent change-up today. The only one I cut (missed location) came back to the middle for him. That was obviously not where I wanted it. It at least did not end up hurting us, so I moved on and continued to make pitches after that.”
On Sept. 2, 1972, Milt Pappas fired the last no-hit game by a Chicago Cubs pitcher at Wrigley Field. Pappas had a perfect game through 8 2/3 innings, but on a 3-2 pitch to the ensuing batter, home plate umpire Bruce Froemming called it ball four. Pappas induced the next batter to pop out to complete the no-hitter.
On Friday, the Cubs (87-47) moved to 40 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 1945 season, when they were 98-56 before losing to the Tigers in seven games in the last World Series they played in.
The goal is to play in another World Series this year — and win it.
“The atmosphere around here is what the coaches and Joe (Maddon) preaches,” said catcher David Ross, who drove in the Cubs first run with a double. “The guys who have been around winning and the young guys who have bought into that thinking, you see this every day. I think that is what winning is, when you get that dedicated effort no matter what.”
The Cubs have won a league-best 50 games against teams that have an above-.500 winning percentage.
“The winning is great,” said Lester, who improved to 8-2 with a 1.91 ERA at Wrigley Field. “Individual stuff is obviously cool and nice, but those World Series statues look nice on your mantel too. I would rather have those.”
The Cubs’ magic number for winning the NL Central is now 14.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.