By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Winners of five straight games, the Cubs have been riding the wave of solid run production and good starting pitching.
On Friday, it was the elder statesman in 38-year-old right-hander John Lackey who stepped up, firing seven shutout innings in a 2-0 win against the Braves at Wrigley Field. Lackey scattered three hits, walked none and struck out five, and his performance came a day after the Cubs missed out in the Justin Verlander sweepstakes.
Lackey had great command, and it marked the first time since May 9 that he didn’t allow a run.
“He really located well and got into a good groove,” catcher Alex Avila said. “He took advantage of the wind. It was a good game overall. You just need to know what pitches you can command the best to get them to hit the ball in the air. You are just trying to execute your pitches overall.”
Lackey was coming off two poor starts, allowing 10 earned runs over his past 10 innings. Lackey has allowed an MLB-high 32 homers this season, but he kept the ball down Friday. The Cubs have won nine of the last 10 games that Lackey has started.
“I felt pretty good today”,” Lackey said. “We located the ball well. We played the elements a little bit. The wind was blowing in. It doesn’t happen that often here, but it was nice. It was a good day to pitch.”
Lackey matched his season-high with seven innings and retired the final 16 batters he faced. He’s 3-0 with a 2.48 ERA in his last five home starts.
“Good starting pitching is the easiest to get wins,” Lackey said. “We have been getting well-pitched games recently. The guys have been scoring a bunch of runs obviously. They have scored a lot for us during this homestand.”
The Cubs improved to a season-high 14 games over .500.
“This was really a well-played game again,” manager Joe Maddon said. “If we continue to pitch this well, we can continue to fill it in the field and at the plate. We have been doing a better job of catching the ball. That is big for us. The starting pitching is trending in the right direction at the right time. The pen is clicking as well.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.