CHICAGO -- All-Star Jonathan Lester had a chance to become the National League's first 13-game winner on Friday afternoon. Instead, the Cubs left-hander struggled with his command, lasting a season-low three innings, and the team had to turn to three position players to pitch in an 18-5 loss to the
CHICAGO -- All-Star Jonathan Lester had a chance to become the National League's first 13-game winner on Friday afternoon. Instead, the Cubs left-hander struggled with his command, lasting a season-low three innings, and the team had to turn to three position players to pitch in an 18-5 loss to the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.
Infielder Thomas La Stella, catcher Victor Caratini and outfielder Ian Happ each pitched for the Cubs, the first time the franchise has used multiple position players in that role in a single game since 1884.
Matt Carpenter had five hits, including three home runs, and drove in seven runs for the Cardinals, who have won six of 10 meetings against the Cubs this season. Lester was charged with eight runs on seven hits and five walks.
"I would've liked to have minimized the damage," Lester said. "Mechanically, this has kind of been coming. I've been battling myself for the last three, maybe four starts and have been working underneath the ball too much. It nipped me in the butt today. I'll move on from it, learn from it."
Said manager Joe Maddon: "Stuff-wise, he was fine today. You could just see in the beginning, he was off a little bit. I thought it was going to be good, but it did not turn out that way."
Lester put things in perspective quickly. On Friday night, his NVQT Foundation was hosting a country-themed fundraiser for pediatric cancer research.
"I've been around long enough to wash this one aside," Lester said. "I was throwing the ball really well until this point. I think I can walk out of here with my head held high and try to raise some money for pediatric cancer research. I don't want to take anything away from the performance today, because it was pretty [bad]."
It was the second straight abbreviated start by a Cubs pitcher, which is not a good way to open the second half. On Thursday, Kyle Hendricks threw 113 pitches over 4 2/3 innings, and Lester was lifted after loading the bases with nobody out in the fourth inning. Lester threw 86 pitches on Friday, including 37 in the second inning.
The two teams play a doubleheader on Saturday, which is another reason Maddon turned to his bench players to pitch in.
"I wish the game would've gone differently, but it was a pretty cool experience to be on the mound at Wrigley," Happ said.
The Cubs lead the Major Leagues in comeback wins, but the Cardinals struck quickly as Carpenter hit Lester's seventh pitch of the game into the right-field bleachers. St. Louis scored four runs in the second, including two on Carpenter's second homer of the game, and opened a 12-1 lead after a seven-run fourth inning. Carpenter added a three-run homer in the sixth.
Carpenter and Chicago's Kristopher Bryant now share a record -- both have hit three homers and two doubles in a game. Bryant did so on June 27, 2016, against the Reds.
"It's so impressive, and you take in the fact with how he started the year," Bryant said of Carpenter. "I think it was 150 at-bats, and he was at .150. Now he's turned it around. It's fun to see. It stinks when it's against us, but he's a heck of a player."
St. Louis' Jack Flaherty held the Cubs to two hits, including Willson Contreras' solo home run in the second, over five innings for the win. Bryant added a solo homer in the seventh.
This was the Cubs' most lopsided loss of the season, and the Cardinals' 18 runs were the most Chicago has given up in a game since an 18-5 loss to the Mets on Sept. 5, 2010.
Maddon said it felt like a Texas League contest or a beer league softball game.
"There's tough losses and losses that don't stink so much," Maddon said. "This one doesn't stink."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Star power: On Tuesday night at the All-Star Game, Contreras hit the first pitch he saw from the Rays' Blake Snell for a home run. On Friday, Contreras waited until the second pitch from Flaherty. With one out in the second, Contreras hit his eighth home run of the season, pulling the Cubs within 5-1.
Pitching in: La Stella retired the first batter he faced to end the sixth, but he served up a leadoff homer to Greg Garcia in the seventh. The Wrigley Field radar gun credited La Stella with a variety of pitches, ranging from a 77-mph fastball to a 53-mph curve. La Stella went 1 1/3 innings, giving up one run on three hits.
Caratini took over in the eighth and served up a two-run homer to pinch-hitter Yairo Munoz. Happ pitched the ninth and was the most efficient. According to baseball historian Ed Hartig, the Cubs have not used two position players, let alone three, as pitchers in a game since at least 1907.
The Cubs are the first team to use three position players as pitchers since the Brewers did so, on Aug. 29, 1979 (Sal Bando, Jim Gantner and Buck Martinez).
The last time the Cubs used multiple position players to pitch was June 16, 1884, in a 20-9 loss to the Buffalo Bisons.
HE SAID IT
"The biggest thing for me is when I've had guys set up, I haven't been able to execute that particular pitch. Everybody wants strikeouts. I feel like when I've had the strikeout or had the guy set up for a pitch, I haven't been able to execute it. I think all this other [analytics] nonsense is something for people to talk about. Everybody wants answers for why guys are pitching well or not pitching well. I guess I'm old school when it comes down to it. Watch the game. Are there times at Wrigley when you fall behind in the count and the wind is blowing in, am I worried about throwing a ball down the middle? No. I don't care what the exit velocity is, I don't care how far it's supposed to go. Is it an out? That's what matters. I think there are people who have nothing better to do than overanalyze things. I'm a big believer in sitting back and enjoying the baseball game." -- Lester
The Cubs will play a day-night doubleheader on Saturday. Tyler Chatwood will start the first game at 12:05 p.m. CT against Luke Weaver at Wrigley Field, and Mike Montgomery will start in the nightcap, scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. CT. The Cardinals will counter with John Gant in the second game. Chatwood finished the first half as the Major League leader in walks (73 over 84 innings), and the Cubs are hoping the right-hander has better command in the second half. Montgomery most likely didn't expect to have nine starts in the first half -- he began the season in the bullpen until Yu Darvish was hurt. Montgomery is 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA as a starter this season.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.