CHICAGO -- Rookie Kyle Schwarber made the most of his opportunity, hitting a two-run tiebreaking single, and Jorge Soler added a two-run double in a five-run fifth inning to back Jon Lester and lead the Cubs to a 7-3 victory over the Giants on Friday. The win gave Chicago some breathing room in the National League Wild Card race.
Lester gave up two runs over seven innings, the seventh straight start in which he's gone at least seven frames. The left-hander was pitching on short rest after starting Monday against the Pirates in a game that was postponed because of rain. He lasted 1 2/3 innings that day.
"Right now, he's turning into the metronome that he is," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Lester. "You're going to see those kind of performances, and it doesn't surprise me. I've seen it -- from the wrong side in the past." More >
Ryan Vogelsong, starting in place in injured Mike Leake, took the loss, giving up three runs over four-plus innings. Vogelsong faced the first two batters in the Cubs' big fifth, yielding Addison Russell's single and Dexter Fowler's double, before the bullpen took over.
"Before that, I was throwing the ball as well as I have," Vogelsong said.
The Cubs now have won eight of their past nine games, and they have a 1 1/2-game lead over the Giants in the NL Wild Card.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Kid stuff: Maddon juggled the lineup to get Schwarber in, and the rookie delivered, hitting a one-out double in the first before scoring on Chris Coghlan's single. Chicago would send nine batters to the plate in the fifth, and Schwarber came through again, hitting a two-run single off lefty Jeremy Affeldt to open a 3-1 lead. The rookie now is 5-for-12 with seven RBIs in his past three games.
"At the plate, he's very comfortable," Maddon said of Schwarber. "He's really good about turning the page. He might punch out, but the next at-bat is a new adventure. He works through every pitch and it's fun to watch." More >
Points off the bench: A bright spot for the Giants was left fielder Nori Aoki, who entered the game as part of a double-switch in the fifth inning. Aoki went 2-for-2, including his fourth home run. He entered the game batting just .176 (6-for-34) in nine games since he was reinstated from the disabled list on July 27. That followed his recovery from a fractured right fibula.
"He looked like he had his timing today," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, adding that Aoki likely will start Saturday's game.
Web gem: Lester got some help on defense. The Giants had runners at first and second with none out in the seventh when Brandon Crawford hit a comebacker to Lester, who bounced the throw in the dirt to shortstop Russell. Russell saved the throw and threw to first baseman Anthony Rizzo in time to get Crawford for the double play. Russell has played mostly second base this year, but he was starting at short in place of Starlin Castro, who got the day off partly because of his struggles at the plate.
"It's the 'riding the bike' theory," Maddon said of Russell. "He's done it so many times, he's comfortable." More >
Stealing runs: The Giants' inability to throw out Schwarber at second base after he was trapped off first in the fifth inning didn't seem significant at the time. But the Cubs added three two-out runs after that play, which ultimately made a difference.
To add insult to injury, left-hander Affeldt, the Giants' pitcher at the time, said that catcher Buster Posey called for the pickoff.
"That's the way my year's been," Affeldt said. "I've taken my lumps. But it's part of the game." More >
"Guys have energy, guys have excitement to be in this position. I think sometimes you can get complacent by [getting to the postseason] every single year and being with the same guys and going through the motions in August and September, and 'We'll be there when we get there.' For a group of guys who have never done it, you've got that excitement of, 'Every single day, we've got a chance.'" -- Lester, on the young Cubs
The Giants challenged a seventh-inning call, maintaining that Russell didn't have a foot on second base when he had control of the ball before turning the double play on Crawford. After a review, it was determined that the call on the field stands.
In the Giants' eighth, Kelby Tomlinson hit a grounder to second baseman Jonathan Herrera, who threw to pitcher Tommy Hunter as he ran to cover first. Tomlinson was called safe, but the Cubs challenged the call and it was overturned.
WHAT'S NEXT Giants: Right-hander Matt Cain will try to sustain his success against the Cubs in Saturday's 1:05 p.m. PT contest. Cain is 6-2 with a 2.38 ERA in 15 career starts against Chicago, including 1-1 with a 2.68 ERA and a .194 opponents' batting average in seven lifetime starts at Wrigley Field.
Cubs:Kyle Hendricks will make his 22nd start in the third game of this four-game series on Saturday. Hendricks is coming off a win over the Brewers in which he gave up one run over seven innings. First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. CT.