CHICAGO -- John Lackey took advantage of the wind blowing in at Wrigley Field, throwing seven scoreless innings, and Javier Baez scampered home from second base on a swinging bunt to spark the Cubs to a 2-0 victory over the Braves on Friday afternoon.Chicago finished Day 1 of the final
CHICAGO -- John Lackey took advantage of the wind blowing in at Wrigley Field, throwing seven scoreless innings, and Javier Baez scampered home from second base on a swinging bunt to spark the Cubs to a 2-0 victory over the Braves on Friday afternoon.
Chicago finished Day 1 of the final month of the regular season holding a 3 1/2-game lead over Milwaukee in the National League Central. With the win, the Cubs now are a season-high 14 games over .500.
"You definitely feel that what you've been working for is around the corner, but you have to keep working, keep pushing," Lackey said. "It's not there yet."
Baez sprinted home on Kyle Schwarber's dribbler up the third-base line in the third inning and Anthony Rizzo doubled and tallied on Ian Happ's single in the fourth to give Lackey all the offense he needed. The veteran right-hander retired the last 16 batters he faced and scattered three hits over seven innings, striking out five.
The Cubs are 9-1 in Lackey's last 10 starts, and he's 3-0 with a 2.48 ERA in his last five starts at Wrigley Field. The right-hander picked up his 11th win, matching his 2016 season total.
"If we continue to pitch this well, we can fill it in on the field," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "The starting pitching is trending in the right direction at the right time."
The Braves' Mike Foltynewicz, eager to turn the calendar after going 1-4 with a 8.61 ERA in five August starts, lost his fifth straight outing, although he did post a quality start, giving up two runs over 6 1/3 innings. He's regained some consistency with his offspeed stuff, as he has allowed three runs over his past two starts (11 1/3 innings).
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Foltynewicz's recent struggles were influenced by his inability to keep his emotions in check after encountering adversity. But he showed some poise as he retired nine of the final 11 batters he faced after allowing three straight to reach to begin the bottom of the fourth.
"I think he was back to where he was before those few outings that got away from him," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I thought he hung in there, kept competing and kept getting back in the strike zone."
Wade Davis pitched the ninth for his 28th save in as many chances, extending the franchise record.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Magic act: Baez never ceases to amaze. He walked to open the Cubs third and advanced on Lackey's sacrifice. One out later, Schwarber's swinging bunt sent the ball toward third and Foltynewicz grabbed the ball, then threw to first. Schwarber was safe -- although the Braves did challenge the call -- and Baez scampered home on the play to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
"He's got all of that in his bag of tricks," Schwarber said of Baez. "It's fun to watch -- you see him make the backhand in the hole or steal home or whatever it is. It's a lot of fun. I know it's fun for everyone else to watch. We're wowed as well."
The Braves were hoping the call at first would be overturned.
"That play could have gone both ways there during the replay," Foltynewicz said. "But during the last three or four bad starts, I think I would have gotten a little negative minded there and started speeding up and not really staying focused on what I needed to do at that moment." More >
Using your head: The wind definitely favored the pitchers on Friday, blowing in from the east at 17 mph. It also made catching fly balls tough. Schwarber found that out in the second when he got a little bit of a late start on Nick Markakis' fly ball to left. Schwarber was able to catch the ball as he fell, although he appeared to roll headfirst. When he uprighted himself, Schwarber pointed to his head. He said it was an inside joke.
"He got a '10' from the Latvian judge on that," Maddon said.
"It was kind of a bull-in-the-china-cabinet kind of catch," Lackey said. "He's going to play hard and that's all you can ask for."
And Schwarber's take?
"I would describe it as a tumble and a somersault and I didn't stick the landing," he said. "It was a ball you have to go after and go get. It's a ball you have to take a chance on. Lackey was out there pitching really well, and you want to get him some outs when you can."
"[Lackey] was just keeping everybody off balance throwing curveballs. He never really had a sequence to where you could sit on a certain pitch. Everything was different in different counts, and in certain situations he threw offspeed heaters. Hats off to him. He's a veteran pitcher and he knows what he's doing."
-- Rio Ruiz, who had two of the Braves' four hits
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This was the Cubs' fifth shutout of the season, and first since July 16 at Baltimore.
Braves:Lucas Sims will take the mound when this series resumes Saturday at 2:20 p.m. ET. Sims had won two consecutive starts before allowing four runs over 6 1/3 innings in Philadelphia on Monday. The rookie right-hander will be making his seventh career start..
Cubs:Jonathan Lester will make his first start since Aug. 17 on Saturday. He's been sidelined with left shoulder fatigue, which hindered him in that last outing against the Reds when he gave up seven earned runs on seven hits over 1 2/3 innings. He threw 47 pitches in a simulated game on Monday to tune up. First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field.
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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.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.