Cubs tie 1907 team for franchise's best start

Cubs tie 1907 team for franchise's best start

CHICAGO -- Kris Bryant hit a two-run double, Addison Russell drove in three runs and Ben Zobrist had four hits, including a pair of RBI singles, to lift the Cubs to an 8-7 victory over the Padres on Tuesday. The Cubs improved to 25-6, matching the 1907 team for the best start in franchise history.

"You can't stay this hot all year long," Zobrist said. "It's such a long season, and we know we're going to have down points. It's the ability to pick each other up, and this team, so far, you've got contributions from everybody, all around the clubhouse, up and down the lineup, every pitcher, every reliever, everybody's contributing in some way. I think the confidence as a team is just super high because of that."

Jon Lester did not give up a hit until Melvin Upton Jr.'s solo home run with two outs in the fourth, but it was a battle for the Cubs lefty, as he struggled with his pitches. He did notch his first win at home in four games and has posted a quality start in six of his seven outings this year.

"We had to invent ways to get guys out tonight," Lester said. "My curveball stunk, the cutter was hit or miss. [The Padres] are a good changeup-hitting team, so we had to hide that as best we could and just try to locate the heater as best I could."

Lester's strong start

San Diego rookie Cesar Vargas took the loss in his fourth big league outing, and Luis Perdomo, a Rule 5 pick who was pitching for the first time since April 27, posted his longest outing of the season, going three innings.

"It's a good lineup," said Vargas, who allowed six runs on 10 hits in four innings -- his first rocky start of the season. "If you leave it in the zone, it's going to get hit. They're attacking. I was trying to be too perfect, and that probably played into it, but they're good hitters."

The Padres pulled within one run in the eighth on pinch-hitter Alex Dickerson's first career home run, a grand slam off Adam Warren. Dickerson became the first Friar in franchise history to hit a pinch-hit grand slam for his first homer.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Zorilla: Zobrist shared National League Player of the Week honors last week with the Mets' Bartolo Colon. The Cubs' second baseman, who was batting .253 one week ago, is now hitting .305 and has reached safely in 18 straight games since April 18. Zobrist has 23 RBIs in that span, and joins Bryant, Russell and Anthony Rizzo, all of whom have at least 20 RBIs this season.

"He doesn't look 34, or whatever he is," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's playing at the highest level I've ever seen him play. I've seen Zo really good, and he's really good right now." More >

Zobrist's big game at the plate

Mad dash: With one out in the second, Zobrist singled and moved up on Javier Baez's bunt hit. Russell then lined a double to right, scoring Zobrist. Baez saw third-base coach Gary Jones hold up his hands and stopped at third, but Russell apparently didn't see Jones and also ran to third, then tried to sprint back to second but was tagged out. In the third, the Cubs had runners at first and second with nobody out, and this time, Bryant lined a double down the left-field line. Jones waved both runners home.

"You've got to keep your head up," Maddon said. "You always talk to the runners about watching the guy in front of you, and [Russell] didn't do it."

"I got a little ahead of myself," Russell said. "I"ll just take that back to the drawing board and learn."

Russell's RBI double

Doubles and injury troubles: Alexei Ramirez doubled home Jose Pirela in the top of the fifth but was forced to exit with a cramped left hamstring after the play -- bad news for the Padres, who already have four infielders on the disabled list. Adam Rosales replaced Ramirez and would later score on Jon Jay's two-bagger.

Ramirez's RBI double

Seventh-inning strategy: A pair of tricky decisions hurt the Padres in the seventh inning. They allowed Perdomo to bat in the top of the frame -- in part because of a thin bench due to Ramirez's injury and in part because of Wednesday's looming doubleheader. Perdomo struck out looking in his first career at-bat, and the Padres would go on to leave the bases loaded.

In the bottom of the frame, Padres manager Andy Green opted to pitch to Russell with men on second and third -- after walking him in the same situation in the third inning. That move backfired when Russell roped a triple to right, plating what proved to be the decisive seventh and eighth runs. Still, the two decisions weren't precisely the same, given that the Cubs would have likely used a pinch-hitter for the pitcher in the seventh -- unlike in the third, when Lester batted.

"That factors into it," Green said. "It's a piece of the puzzle. Another piece of the puzzle: It's a young guy on the mound, who hasn't thrown for [13] days. You're trying not to put him in a hole from a command-related point of view."

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Lester's outing was the 31st straight game by a Cubs starter of at least five innings. It's the team's second-longest stretch since at least 1910. The only longer one was 41 consecutive games from Sept. 15, 1926, to May 21, 1927.

The Cubs' 25-6 start is the best in baseball since the 1984 Tigers went 26-5. The Cubs are one of eight teams in the last 100 seasons to win at least 25 of their first 31 games.

WHAT'S NEXT
Padres: The Friars are set for a twin bill against the Cubs on Wednesday, with Game 1 at 10:05 a.m. PT and Game 2 starting at 5:05 p.m. San Diego's two hottest pitchers take the hill; Colin Rea starts the opener, coming off a no-hit bid and the longest outing of his career, against the Mets on Thursday. Drew Pomeranz gets the nightcap, having allowed just one run on four hits in his last two starts combined.

Cubs The Cubs will play a split doubleheader on Wednesday, with Kyle Hendricks starting the first game and John Lackey taking the ball for the nightcap. Hendricks is 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA in three starts against the Padres. Lackey is coming off a win over the Nationals in which he gave up two runs over seven innings. The first game will start at 12:05 p.m. CT, and the second game will start at 7:05 p.m. CT.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.