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Missed chances, botched defense cost Lester

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

PITTSBURGH -- Jon Lester began Wednesday as the only Major League pitcher with at least four starts this year without a decision. That changed, although not in the way the Cubs' lefty would've liked.

Lester served up five runs over 5 2/3 innings in the Cubs' 6-5 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park. He was upset about three pitches that resulted in a home run by Josh Harrison in the first, a double down the left-field line by Phil Gosselin in the second and a homer by Josh Bell in the sixth.

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PITTSBURGH -- Jon Lester began Wednesday as the only Major League pitcher with at least four starts this year without a decision. That changed, although not in the way the Cubs' lefty would've liked.

Lester served up five runs over 5 2/3 innings in the Cubs' 6-5 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park. He was upset about three pitches that resulted in a home run by Josh Harrison in the first, a double down the left-field line by Phil Gosselin in the second and a homer by Josh Bell in the sixth.

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Lester didn't get much help as the Cubs went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13.

"We had more than a ton of opportunities," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "You look at a game like that -- don't blame anybody. We collectively left too many guys on base. We had the right guys up there at the right time, and it did not want to work out."

Lester said he felt better with his command than he did on April 16, when he threw seven shutout innings against the Pirates at Wrigley Field.

"It's probably the best I've thrown the ball all year," Lester said. "That's baseball. I made the adjustment too late. The two innings cost us five runs, and I put these guys behind the eight ball too early."

Video: CHC@PIT: Bell fires home to stop Lester from scoring

Besides the lack of clutch hits, there were some botched plays. The Pirates had runners on the corners in the second when Harrison broke for second. Lester threw to second baseman Javier Baez, who threw to third baseman Kris Bryant to get Gosselin, who started for home, in a rundown. But it fell apart as catcher Willson Contreras dropped Bryant's throw for an error, allowing the run to score.

"We did everything right on that," Maddon said. "That was perfect, actually. Willson just didn't hold onto the ball. ... Good throw to the plate, and the easiest part, we didn't do. I was happy with the way we ran [the play], actually."

Added Bryant: "Plays matter. This was a game we had a couple plays that really mattered, and we didn't take advantage of them."

Anthony Rizzo did drive in four runs, including a two-run homer in the eighth. But the Cubs loaded the bases in the first and second innings, and they couldn't deliver.

Video: CHC@PIT: Rizzo crushes a two-run home run to right

"I could've had a good RBI chance there and didn't come through," Kyle Schwarber said of his at-bat in the second with two on. "I'm not too worried about it at all. I know we have a good team here. It's one game, it's one loss."

Added Maddon: "It was a weird night. However, won two out of three, had an opportunity to pull it out in the ninth, so there's nothing for me to lament."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs