By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Cubs left-hander Jon Lester finally won his first game of the season Tuesday, but it wasn’t an easy night for him.
A strike zone that seemed to cut off the corners for both Lester and Philadelphia rigth-hander Jeremy Hellickson turned what could have been a close game into a three-and-a-half-hour blowout, an 8-3 victory for the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
“There was not a strike zone tonight, it was a ball zone,” Cubs said manager Joe Maddon in reference to home plate umpire Tony Basner’s tea cup strike zone. “I don’t know what was going on. It was the same for both sides. That’s why I was not arguing. The calls were the same on both sides. What can I tell you, man? It was frustrating for both teams. If just a couple of those pitches are called strikes, it slants the game in a whole different direction. It was frustrating for both pitchers.”
Lester lasted just five innings, throwing 104 pitches. Major run support came from Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez, each of whom homered. Schwarber and Baez both drove in three runs.
Baez finished a double short of the cycle and had a career-high four hits for the second time in the big leagues. Schwarber’s three-run homer in the fourth inning was his first since April 18.
Lester won his 10th consecutive decision at Wrigley Field, coming across 13 starts. Like Maddon, he was adjusting to the strike zone all evening.
“That’s why we are here at 11 (p.m.),” Lester said. “It was a battle, not only against the hitters. Both sides saw it, both sides felt it. I just had to try and move on to the next pitch. Everyone watched the game. So it is what it is.”
Lester is now 7-0 lifetime against the Phillies in nine career starts. Baez homered for the second straight game. He has done that three times in his career.
Bryant, who homered in the first inning, was forced to leave the game in the eighth inning with a tight calf muscle. He said after the game it was mostly a precaution. Bryant doesn’t expect to miss time on the field.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.