By Bruce Levine —

CHICAGO (CBS) — Winning any way they can is the name of the game for the Cubs at this time of year.

That’s what they did Wednesday night, earning a 17-5 win against the Mets at Wrigley Field. With the win, Chicago held a 2.5-game lead over Milwaukee and increased its lead to three games over St. Louis as 17 more games are left in the regular season.

Left-hander Jon Lester (11-7) earned the win, battling through fatigue and gutting out six innings of two-run ball, over which he allowed six hits and walked four while striking out five. He had an escalating pitch count that reached 78 by the fourth inning and ended at 114.

“If I took the last three innings from my last two starts, it would be a lot better,” Lester said. “For whatever reason, I am really just not crisp right now. I will figure it out. This is a game of adjustments, and I have to figure out some. I could be a little too strong to start out with or trying to be a little too fine. As we got into it, we incorporated some other pitches. I got a lot of ground balls after that. It was good.”

This has been a much different route toward the playoffs for the Cubs, as their 97-win season in 2015 and 103-win campaign in 2016 had a much different feel to them. Lester himself had a career year in 2016 but has struggled more often this season in which he has a 4.30 ERA and 1.31 WHIP.

The Cubs rotation has a 3.35 ERA, good for third in the National League, since the All-Star break. That was the driving force in the 2016 championship season as well.

“It looked easy, didn’t it?” Lester said of last season. “We were in first place 95 percent of the year. I think you have to take each individual year and look at it differently. 2016 was an anomaly as to how we played from day one until the last day. We had played better and maybe had a little bit of lady luck on our side. We had more walk-offs than anyone. We led the league in walk-offs. That is a big proponent”

Lester then offered a reminder.

“You have to forget 2016,” Lester said. “You must move on from that. That was a great time, we all have rings to show from that. Now we must worry about the next 20 days. At the end of it, hopefully we are celebrating that we got into the playoffs again for the third straight year. Once you do that, anything can happen. Just get in, and we will figure it out as we go from there.”

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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