How it happened: The Cubs got down 1-0 in the first inning as Jay Bruce brought home Tyler Holt on a sacrifice fly, but the Cubs scored the next 10 runs in the game as a two-out walk by Jon Lester in the third inning changed everything for Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani. DeScalfani had struck out six of the first eight batters but after the walk he gave up two hits, including a two-run double by Austin Jackson. Addison Russell singled home Anthony Rizzo in the next inning to make it 3-1. The Cubs scored in the fifth and sixth innings; Jackson drove home another run before Starlin Castro hit his 11th home run of the season. Chris Denorfia walked with the bases loaded in the eighth before Jackson drove in two more with his third hit. The five RBIs are a career high for him. Castro had four hits as he drove in a run in the ninth with a double to the wall, and that was followed by a Russell run-scoring double. Lester went eight innings, giving up just three hits and striking out nine. Neil Ramirez gave up two runs in the ninth on two sacrifice flies.
What it means: Castro finished a torrid September in which he led the National League with a .426 batting average (minimum 50 at-bats). He also made a highlight-reel play against Brayan Pena in the fifth inning, ranging up the middle and then making a strong throw. Is his late-season performance adding up to a start in the wild-card game and possibly beyond? Joe Maddon has thoughts on his starter for second base but he’s letting his stat guys run some offensive and defensive numbers before revealing anything. Castro has given him a lot to think about.
The win, combined with the loss by the Pirates, drew the Cubs to within two games of Pirates in the loss column. The Cubs have four games remaining while the Pirates have three. The team with the better record hosts the wild-card game next Wednesday, with the Cubs holding the tiebreaker.
The Cubs finished September with a 19-9 record while improving to 93-65 overall.
Jon Lester: Lester broke the franchise mark for strikeouts by a left-hander; he has 207 in his first year as a Cub. It’s his fourth 200-strikeout season. He also surpassed the 200-inning mark for the year, the seventh time in his career he’s reached that milestone. He also walked, got a hit and scored two runs. He completed his first season as a starter with the Cubs with a 3.34 ERA.
Cubs’ starters: Lester’s outing was the fourth in a row in which the starter gave up three or fewer hits and one or fewer runs.