ST. LOUIS -- Left-hander Jonathan Lester watched the Cubs' last two games against the Brewers, both shutout losses. But he wasn't worried that his teammates wouldn't show up on Friday night in the first game of a three-game series against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium."I think the biggest thing we
ST. LOUIS -- Left-hander Jonathan Lester watched the Cubs' last two games against the Brewers, both shutout losses. But he wasn't worried that his teammates wouldn't show up on Friday night in the first game of a three-game series against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
"I think the biggest thing we can do is when stuff like [the losses] happens, these guys show up the next day like it never happened," Lester said. "I think that's what's key. You can dwell on it that day, that night, but the next day, when you show up to the field ... it's hard, but you try to leave it behind you and get after it on that particular day. We did that today. Guys had great at-bats. Obviously, when you're able to hit the ball over the fence, that helps."
The Cubs did just that in their 13-5 win over the Cardinals. Kristopher Bryant and Kyle Schwarber both found their home run swings, Ian Happ added a solo shot and Lester even drove in a run with a squeeze bunt.
"That might be the best stuff he's had all year, from my angle," manager Joe Maddon said of Lester. "You can see the hitters' reaction to the pitch -- it was there, the velocity was there. He just continues to trend in the right direction."
Lester went six innings and scattered five hits, including Marcell Ozuna's home run with one out in the Cardinals' fourth. The homer snapped Lester's string of scoreless innings at 18. Matt Carpenter also connected off Lester leading off the sixth.
The Cubs staged their own home run derby. Happ led off the third inning with a homer, the first run scored by the Cubs after they were shut out in back-to-back games by the Brewers. Bryant, who had gone homerless for a career-high 24 games, ended that skid with a two-run shot that same inning. Bryant added an RBI single in the fifth and a sacrifice fly in the seventh; the four RBIs are a season high.
"I think we played a complete game offensively tonight," Maddon said. "That's what we're striving to do. I want homers, I want singles, I want movement of runners, I want good bunts, I want playing offense. We did it tonight, and you have to do that against a really good pitcher like [Michael Wacha]."
All three Cubs homers came off Wacha, who was charged with nine runs (eight earned) over four-plus innings.
"They were all elevated, middle of the plate," Wacha said of the home run pitches. "I just have to do a better job of locating and getting it where I need it to go."
Schwarber's monster homer -- his first since June 1 -- landed in straightaway center with two on and sparked a six-run fifth.
"I think for us it was more about focusing on us going out and getting our pitch," Schwarber said. "[Wacha] has got a really good fastball and really good stuff, period, and he doesn't make many mistakes. We tried to capitalize on those mistakes and we did."
With the win, the Cubs are 13-5 in their last 18 games, but 2-4 against the Cardinals.
"When we come here and play the Cardinals and see the red and blue and the fans going crazy, it does make it a little different," Bryant said. "We realize it's going to be a dogfight from here on out with the Brewers and Cardinals. It's nice to start off the series with a win."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Welcome back: The Cubs' offense has been scuffling, with two homers in seven games from June 7-13, but they hit two in the third on Friday. Happ led off the inning with his ninth homer of the season. One out later, Albert Almora Jr. singled to set up Bryant's homer and give the Cubs a 3-0 lead. Busch Stadium is special to Happ -- he made his Major League debut there on May 13, 2017.
Chipping in: The Cubs had runners at first and third and one out in the fourth when Lester bunted toward third. Javier Baez, who was on third, scored on the play, and Lester reached second when the throw from catcher Yadier Molina sailed into right. Almora added a sacrifice fly to open a 5-0 lead.
"It worked," Lester said of his bunt. "Obviously, Javy's on third. When I got it down, I didn't initially think it was good enough. Javy down there, he gets incredible jumps. He's an unbelievable baserunner, athlete. That helps."
Lester earned his 167th career win, and is now tied with Mike Flanagan for 51st all-time among left-handed pitchers. Lester is three behind Ron Guidry (170 wins).
HE SAID IT
"Magnificent. I was calling for the ball after the first one. The second ball was going right to Cooperstown, as far as I was concerned." -- Maddon, on Baez, who drew two unintentional walks in a game for the first time this season
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Wacha hit a grounder to shortstop Addison Russell to open the Cardinals' third and was called out at first. But the Cardinals challenged the ruling, and after a review, the call was overturned and Wacha was credited with a single.
Wacha was forced at second one batter later, then Cubs catcher Willson Contreras fired to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to pick off Harrison Bader. The Cardinals challenged the call, but after a review, it was confirmed and Bader was out to end the inning.
Right-hander Kyle Hendricks will start Game 2 of the series against the Cardinals. He has lost three in a row, and did not pitch past the fifth inning in any of those outings. Hendricks is 1-1 in five career starts at Busch Stadium, where he has not pitched since last Sept. 28. Carlos Martinez will take the hill for St. Louis. First pitch will be at 7:15 p.m. CT.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.