Lester’s 12th-inning bunt caps Cubs’ rally vs. Mariners
The Chicago Cubs rallied from an early six-run deficit, tied the game with three runs in the ninth and won it on pinch hitter Jon Lester’s bunt in the 12th during a 7-6 victory over the Seattle Mariners in Sunday night.
Lester, a pitcher with an .051 career batting average, bunted on a 2-2 count with a runner at third base and one out. He perfectly placed the ball near the first base line, allowing Jason Heyward to score. Lester, who never previously appeared as a pinch hitter in his 11-year major league career, collected his fifth career RBI. Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Dae-Ho Lee homered in the first three innings for the Mariners, who have lost 12 of 21.
The National League Central-leading Cubs (63-41) took two of three games against Seattle (52-51).Heyward doubled to lead off the 12th off Cody Martin (1-1). Heyward advanced on Willson Contreras’ sacrifice fly before coming home on Lester’s bunt, sliding under the tag of catcher Mike Zunino after Martin flipped the ball to the plate with his glove.
The Cubs — who own the majors’ best record — tied the game in the ninth against Steve Cishek, who has 25 saves. Addison Russell’s RBI single made it 6-4 before Heyward was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Another run scored when the Mariners were unable to complete a double play on Contreras’ grounder. The tying run scored on a wild pitch.
Hector Rondon (2-2) pitched two perfect innings for the win.In five innings, Seattle starter Felix Hernandez allowed two runs and two hits — the fewest he has given up in three starts since returning from the disabled list July 20 after recovering from a strained right calf. He also struck out eight but walked five. He had surrendered nine runs and 19 hits in 12 2/3 innings in his two previous starts since coming off the DL.
Seattle had a chance to blow open the game, loading the bases with no outs in the sixth. Joe Nathan exited after allowing a walk and a double. After another walk, Travis Wood got two strikeouts and a popout to prevent any scoring.
The Cubs pulled to within three on Ben Zobrist’s RBI triple in the seventh. They put two on in the eighth, but Edwin Diaz struck out two.Among the Cubs’ defensive highlights, Wood moved from the mound to left field in the seventh and crashed into the ivy catching a potential Franklin Gutierrez extra-base hit. Wood returned to the mound and recorded the last out of the eighth.
Matusz struggled from the get-go in his Cubs debut.Cruz hit a two-run homer — his 26th home run of the season — for a 2-0 Mariners lead after Shawn O’Malley singled to lead off the first. The Mariners then loaded the bases on a hit batter and two walks before Matusz got Zunino to fly out to end the inning.
The Cubs began the bottom of the first with two straight walks before Hernandez struck out three in a row.
Cano also hit a two-run homer — his 23rd home run of the season — in the second.The Mariners added a third two-run drive in the third from Dae-Ho Lee, his 13th homer of the year.Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel pinch-hit for Matusz in the third to end hisnight after giving up six runs and six hits in three innings.
Chicago manager Joe Maddon said before the game he would be satisfied if Matusz pitched five innings. The Cubs started him Sunday to fulfill contractual obligations — he could have opted out of his contract ifthe Cubs hadn’t promoted him — and to give their other starters rest.Matusz allowed eight runs in six relief innings for the Baltimore Orioles before they traded him May 23 to the Atlanta Braves, who released him June 3.
Carl Edwards Jr. replaced Matusz and struck out five of the six batters he faced.The Cubs got their first hit off Hernandez on Ben Zobrist’s single tolead off the fourth, but he was stranded at second.Chicago ended the shutout when Zobrist drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth. Another run scored when Hernandez hit Addison Russell. To end the inning, Hernandez struck out Jason Heyward, who threw his helmet.
NOTES: The Mariners announced that LHP Wade Miley (7-8, 4.98 ERA) was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for LHP Ariel Miranda, one day after Miley held the Cubs to one hit and one run in seven innings. … The Mariners’ rotation for their series against Boston at Safeco Field is expected to be LHP James Paxton on Monday, LHP Wade LeBlanc on Tuesday and RHP Hisashi Iwakuma on Wednesday. Miley was scheduled to start Thursday. … The Cubs optioned RHP Justin Grimm to Triple-A Iowa after Saturday’s game to make room for Sunday’s starting pitcher, Brian Matusz, whose contract was selected. Grimm has a 4.72 ERA in 45 relief appearances. He took the news well and will eventually return to the team, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. … Maddon said he was unaware that closer Aroldis Chapman dislikes four-out save opportunities. Chapman got four outs for a save Thursday against the Chicago White Sox before he blew a save Saturday against the Mariners when he was also called upon with two outs in the eighth. Chapman told reporters four-out saves are not his “favorite thing.”