By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Cubs left-hander Jon Lester loves the home cooking of pitching at Wrigley Field, but he didn’t get a win to show for it Sunday.
The Cubs fell 6-1 to the Pirates despite seven shutout innings from Lester when the bullpen faltered by allowing six runs amid some poor defense in the final two innings. It was the first time since May 15, 2016 that the Cubs lost a start by Lester at home, ending that streak at 11. Lester is now 10-2 with a 1.60 ERA in 17 starts at Wrigley Field since the start of 2016, with that ERA representing the third-best in the National League for a pitcher at home in that time frame.
Lester effort dropped his ERA to 1.00 and resulted in a no-decision came on a day that Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon was sharp as well, as he allowed just one unearned run in seven innings. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the seventh, when pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella’s RBI double off the glove of Pirates left fielder Adam Frazier gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
Lester allowed just three hits and two walks while striking out three in his 103-pitch effort over seven shutout innings. His work went for naught in the eighth inning, as the Pirates scored three times off of reliever Koji Uehara, two of which were earned. Uehara didn’t record an out.
In the ninth, Frazier’s three-run homer off Cubs reliever Justin Grimm sealed the win for the Pirates.
The Cubs struggled in several areas Sunday, as they hit just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
“We are never going to single out any certain part of the game,” Cubs infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist said about playing the blame game. “As far as hitters go, you take that as part of the group. We want to hit well together. We just didn’t do that this series. Regardless of personal statistics, we have to score runs and get the bats going. We will. We just have to keep working hard every day and have good quality at-bats.”
The Cubs bullpen blew a save for the third consecutive game, the first time the team has done that since May 8-10, 2000. The relievers were overworked in the three-game set that the Pirates swept, and the Cubs were without one of their best weapons as Carl Edwards Jr. was away on bereavement leave.
“We made so many good plays on defense today,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We did so many good things. We did not get the hit (we needed). I totally agree with that. That has been more of our problem than anything — not getting a clutch hit. Also not holding a lead in the latter part of the game. Jon Lester was outstanding. I saw so many positives. When you don’t hold leads late, that can be frustrating.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.