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Hustle, dominant Lester lift Cubs to sweep

Road victory pushes Cubs a season-high 10 games over .500
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

NEW YORK -- The Cubs needed a little trickery by Javier Baez and as many innings as possible from Jon Lester on Sunday to complete a sweep of their four-game series against the Mets, 2-0, at Citi Field.

Baez stole home for Chicago's first run and Lester gave up two hits over seven scoreless innings for the win as the Cubs wrapped up their road trip at 6-1.

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NEW YORK -- The Cubs needed a little trickery by Javier Baez and as many innings as possible from Jon Lester on Sunday to complete a sweep of their four-game series against the Mets, 2-0, at Citi Field.

Baez stole home for Chicago's first run and Lester gave up two hits over seven scoreless innings for the win as the Cubs wrapped up their road trip at 6-1.

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Video: Must C Clips: Baez steals home vs. Mets

The Cubs are now a season-high 10 games over .500.

"Absolutely, it's the best week of the year for us," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "There's games we could've lost that we won, and that's what you should say when you're good. It went in your favor because you do the little things well and that's what gets you over the top."

The lengthy outing by Lester was needed after Saturday's 14-inning marathon, which the Cubs won, 7-1. Lester probably hasn't seen this many left-handed batters in a lineup for some time. The Mets started five southpaws because of injuries to their right-handed hitters.

"At this point right now, with who we have out, our lineup is not built to face a left-handed pitcher," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said.

Who was the last manager to try that against Lester?

"I think the last guy who did that to me was Joe [Maddon] in Tampa," Lester said. "I had some kind of reverse splits one year and he stacked the lineup in Tampa against me. I think it was about the same result. Adrian [Gonzalez] told me when I got on first that everybody's hurt and they've got to play. He said he hasn't played in I don't know how many games against left-handed pitchers and he's in there. Sometimes it works out in our favor."

The game didn't open smoothly, as Lester walked the first two batters -- Brandon Nimmo and Jose Bautista -- but then struck out the next three hitters to end the inning. The Cubs' lefty would retire 14 in a row before Amed Rosario reached on an error by shortstop Addison Russell with two out in the fifth.

"I think I threw two balls in my whole bullpen [session] and I got out there and didn't have my bearings, I don't know why," Lester said. "Something wasn't right and I was able to settle back in there and get out of the first. [Steven] Matz pitched a hell of a game and to match him with some zeros was big for us."

Kevin Plawecki recorded the first hit off Lester, a single to left with two out and one on in the sixth. The Mets loaded the bases but Lester escaped. 

Video: CHC@NYM: Plawecki singles for the Mets' 1st hit

"I'm way too old and I had too many pitches going into the sixth to even really feel like I had a chance at it," Lester said. "The biggest thing is the 'W.' I don't really care about all the other stuff."

Baez's adventures came in the seventh when he recorded his second regular-season steal of home, which didn't surprise Lester, either.

"Javy never really ceases to amaze anybody," Lester said. "His baseball instincts and the way he goes about things on the field, it's fun to watch. I saw that happen and literally just laughed. That's all you can do. It was an unbelievable play."

Baez is one of only nine active players with more than one career steal of home. 

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Cubs come close in third: Russell doubled and moved up on a groundout by Tommy La Stella before trying to score on Lester's sacrifice. But Matz retrieved the ball and flipped to Plawecki in time for the force at home.

Video: CHC@NYM: Matz nabs Russell at the plate in the 3rd

Seventh-inning breakthrough: The Cubs caught the Mets napping twice in the seventh. Baez singled to open the inning against Matz and reached third on Willson Contreras' single. On a 1-1 pitch during Ian Happ's at-bat, Matz had his back to Baez. Both Contreras and Baez then took off with Baez stealing home. Baez has done this before, including Game 1 of the 2016 National League Championship Series. It was his second swipe of home during the regular season -- he also did so Aug. 30, 2017, against the Pirates. The Cubs added another run that inning as Contreras scored on Ben Zobrist's sacrifice fly to Luis Guillorme.

Video: CHC@NYM: Cubs put their speed on display in the 7th

"It doesn't happen often that the world is set up the proper way for it to occur, and absolutely everything was in place right there," Maddon said.

Said Contreras: "[Baez] has the best instincts as a baserunner and a player. He's great for this team."

SOUND SMART
Lester has now given up one earned run or fewer in seven of his 12 starts this season. In his last nine starts, he has a 1.94 ERA. The Cubs are 9-3 in his outings.

BAEZ, LA STELLA BUSY
Baez and Tommy La Stella were busy trading places in the first five innings. Baez started at third and La Stella at second but against a left-handed batter, they would switch places. When the Mets had a right-handed hitter at the plate, Baez trotted over to third and La Stella was at second. All the switching kept the scorekeepers busy as they tracked their position changes but through five innings, neither infielder had to make a single play. In the Mets' sixth, Russell was lifted because of a sprained left middle finger, and Zobrist was inserted at second and Baez stayed put at shortstop.

"I wanted Javy where the highest probability was," Maddon said.

HE SAID IT
"We're playing well. To go to one of our division guys [in Pittsburgh] and take two out of three, and to come here and win four against a team that seems to always give us a little bit of grief, especially in New York, it's a good road trip for us. Hopefully, we can keep it rolling. We're playing good baseball. That's all you can hope for. Our bullpen has been really, really good for us. As long as our pitchers keep doing what they're doing, we'll be solid." -- Lester, on the Cubs' weel

UP NEXT
Kyle Hendricks will open a three-game series against the Phillies on Tuesday at Wrigley Field opposite Zach Eflin. Hendricks took the loss in his last outing against the Pirates, giving up two runs over five innings. He said the start was more of a battle mentally than anything else. He'll be back at Wrigley Field, where he's 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA in six starts so far. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

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