Pitching party: Cubs grab fifth straight win scoring 3 or fewer runs

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs are pitching their way into the history books and achieved a franchise record in their 3-2 win over the Colorado Rockies on Monday.

It was their fifth straight victory scoring three or fewer runs, and it marked the first time that has happened in baseball since 2011 -- and the first time ever for the Cubs. The streak has also vaulted the Cubs into first place in the National League Central as the calendar turns to May.

"You guys believe me now?" Monday's starter, Jon Lester, asked after the game.

About what?

"That we would get on a roll," Lester said. "Just playing every day. Not having eight days between each start always helps. We're going in the right direction."

The Cubs have played the fewest games in baseball, thanks in part to an awful weather pattern that seemed to followed them during the early part of the month. Cancellations were the norm, as were short outings from a high-priced rotation. But as the rain and snow subsided, the starting staff began to heat up. After Monday, they haven't given up a single earned run in their past five starts. The Cubs have won them all, despite scoring only 12 runs themselves.

"The pitching has been outstanding," manager Joe Maddon said. "No earned runs. Give them a lot of credit."

The entire pitching staff has given up just one earned run in 45 innings in the team's current home stand. While much of it was played in colder conditions, that was not the case on Monday. The game-time temperature was 80 degrees, with the wind blowing straight out at 12 mph.

"You usually don't see a 3-2 game with the wind blowing out like it was tonight," Lester said.

The Cubs ace was pulled in a tie game, so the win fell to 26-year-old Northwestern University product Luke Farrell, the son of former MLB pitching coach and manager John Farrell.

"I won't downplay it," Farrell said after his 1.1 innings. "To get your first win in the major leagues is an awesome thing, an achievement I appreciate fully."

The Cubs are taking it easy on their top relievers, as Maddon avoided using Carl Edwards Jr. and Brandon Morrow for a fourth game in five days, thrusting Farrell into a high-leverage situation in the middle innings. He retired the four batters he faced, including stars Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon. The Cubs took the lead for good the next inning.

"He was the linchpin of the whole game," Maddon said. "That guy has as good a makeup as anyone on this team -- anybody. I'm really impressed with his way. Cannot be more impressive."

Farrell added: "The adrenaline I felt pitching in front of fans like this on a Monday night is pretty amazing."

Those fans left happy, as the Cubs are alone in first place entering May, just as they were in 2016 and 2017 -- both seasons that ended in division titles.

If you're wondering, only two teams in the Live Ball Era (1920) have won six straight games while scoring three or fewer runs. The Cubs can accomplish that feat on Tuesday when Kyle Hendricks take the mound.

No team has won seven straight under those conditions. Maddon might want more breathing room late in the game, but Cubs pitchers are having a blast putting the team on their collective backs.

"It's been a fun last five games to be a part of," Lester said with a smile.