Pirates shut out in series closer against Cubs
CHICAGO — Jon Lester combined with three relievers on a four-hitter, David Bote hit an early two-run triple and the Chicago Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-0, on Thursday night to open a one-game NL Central lead over Milwaukee heading into the final weekend of the season.
A day after the Cubs and Brewers assured themselves of no worse than wild-card berths, Lester (18-6) escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning and allowed three hits and four walks over six innings. He improved to 6-1 with a 1.71 ERA in his last eight starts.
Trevor Williams (14-10) gave up all three runs, eight hits and three walks in five innings. He had been 4-0 in six starts since losing to the Cubs on Aug. 17 and is 7-3 with a 1.38 ERA since the All-Star break.
Pirates OF Jordan Luplow underwent an appendectomy Thursday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. The 24-year-old appeared in 37 games this season.
Pirates RHP Nick Kingham (5-7, 5.23) starts Friday at Cincinnati against RHP Anthony DeSclafani (7-7, 4.91).
Steve Cishek, Carl Edwards Jr. and Jesse Chavez followed Lester, with Chavez pitching the ninth for his fourth save in five chances with Chicago.
Chicago (93-66) hosts St. Louis (87-72) in the final series starting Friday, and Milwaukee (92-67) is at home against Detroit. The Cardinals (87-72) trail the Los Angeles Dodgers by one game for the second wild-card berth.
The Cubs’ win means the NL Central champion, Chicago or Milwaukee, will finish with the league’s best record and will play the winner of Tuesday’s wild-card game. East champion Atlanta will play the West champion, Colorado or the Dodgers.
Bote started at third base in place of Kris Bryant, who missed his second game with a sore left wrist after getting hit by a pitch by Chris Archer on Tuesday.
Lester singled in the fourth and scored on Daniel Murphy’s single.