Lester helps Cubs to 6th straight win, beats Cole, Pirates

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CHICAGO (AP) — Jon Lester pumped his fist and yelled as he walked off the mound at Wrigley Field. A season-high crowd of 38,883 roared its approval.

Not even Gerrit Cole can beat the Chicago Cubs right now.

Lester outpitched Cole with seven gutsy innings, and the Cubs defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-1 on Saturday for their sixth straight win.

"You have to better pitch better than good pitching to win, and we had the better pitching today," manager Joe Maddon said. "Jonny set that whole thing up. Man, he was outstanding."

Kris Bryant went 2 for 2 with two walks and scored twice as the Cubs moved six games over .500 for the first time since they were 83-77 on Oct. 3, 2009, according to STATS. It is the longest win streak for Chicago since a seven-game run in 2011.

Lester (4-2) allowed one run and nine hits in his fourth consecutive win. The left-hander struck out seven, running his career total to 1,504 Ks, and walked one.

"I was fortunate to get some quick outs, especially early in the game," Lester said, "and then kind of from there, just trying to maintain, trying to keep our guys in the dugout as best we could, get out of that warm air and you know get these guys up to bat against Cole."

Sean Rodriguez homered for Pittsburgh, which has dropped four in a row. Starling Marte and Jung Ho Kang had three hits apiece.

Cole (5-2) allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings. He began the day with a 6-0 record and a 2.92 ERA in six career starts against the Cubs.

"They were fouling pitches off and I wasn't executing with two strikes," Cole said.

The Pirates had at least one hit in Lester's last six innings, but Rodriguez's second homer on the first pitch of the third was all the scoring they could manage. They went 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base.

"There's not many guys in that lineup that didn't get a shot at driving in a run," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.

With two on, two outs and Chicago clinging to a 2-1 lead in the seventh, Lester was visited by Maddon and a trainer with an 0-2 count on Andrew McCutchen. He was cramping up, mainly in his right leg, but he told Maddon he was fine.

Lester then struck out the 2013 NL MVP, leading to a loud ovation from the crowd on a picturesque day and a brief celebration for the pumped-up pitcher as he walked to the dugout.

"He wears his heart on his sleeve and it's pretty cool to see out of a guy like that," Bryant said.

Phil Coke and Jason Motte combined to wriggle out of a jam in the eighth, and Travis Wood finished for his first career save. Maddon said after the game that Wood had been moved to the bullpen and he would make an announcement about the rotation on Sunday.


Cubs second baseman Addison Russell had a nice turn on an inning-ending double play in the second, and then robbed Neil Walker with a terrific leaping grab for a big out in the fifth. The rookie came up through the minors as a shortstop and is learning how to play second in the majors.

"The double plays are really getting better," Maddon said. "He's knowing what to do, when to hit the bag and step back, hit the bag and come across, he's learning that little nuance of the position, and that really takes a while."


Pirates: RHP Brandon Cumpton was transferred to the 60-day disabled list when RHP Wilfredo Boscan was promoted from Triple-A Indianapolis before the game. The Pirates also optioned infielder Steve Lombardozzi to their top minor league affiliate. Cumpton had Tommy John surgery in March.

Cubs: LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (mild left groin strain) is at the very end of his rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa. "We've been discussing it," Maddon said. "I know he's been doing really well." ... RHP Neil Ramirez (shoulder inflammation) is throwing bullpen sessions. "Nothing spectacular. Nothing awful," Maddon said. "Pretty much status quo."


Pirates RHP A.J. Burnett (2-1, 1.60 ERA) and Cubs RHP Jake Arrieta (4-3, 3.00 ERA) meet in the finale of the weekend series. Burnett has allowed two runs or less in each of his seven starts this year. Arrieta pitched eight innings in a 6-1 victory over the New York Mets in his previous start on Tuesday.


Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

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