It wasn't divine intervention either that prompted Maddon to insert Anthony Rizzo into the leadoff spot, but it worked. Rizzo provided a spark and rookie Ian Happ smacked a grand slam to help Jon Lester pick up his 150th career win in the Cubs' 14-3 victory Tuesday night over the Mets.
Jason Heyward added a two-run homer in the sixth, Kris Bryant hit a solo shot in the seventh and Javier Baez belted a two-run blast in the ninth as every Cubs starter recorded a hit, including Lester, to help them end their road losing streak at nine games. The five home runs are a season high for the Cubs as well.
Rizzo drove in three runs in his first career game batting leadoff. He smacked a solo homer in the first, drew a walk with the bases loaded in the second, and hit an RBI double in the third. Happ followed Rizzo's bases-loaded walk with his first career grand slam and sixth homer of the season to end a personal 0-for-11 skid and open a 6-1 lead. It was the fourth grand slam by a Cubs player this season.
Will Rizzo lead off on Wednesday? Yes, Maddon said.
"Let's go on a run now," Rizzo said. "We want to keep winning and hopefully this can be the start of something."
The Cubs tallied a season-high seven runs in the second thanks to Rizzo, Happ and Addison Russell, whose two-run double chased Mets starter Zack Wheeler with two outs. One day after Jacob deGrom went the distance in a 6-1 win, Wheeler posted the shortest outing in his career, giving up eight runs over 1 2/3 innings. Mets starters had given up no more than one run in each of the past six games prior to Tuesday. The Mets gave up more runs on Tuesday than they had in their previous six games (10).
"I just didn't feel right today," Wheeler said. "I don't know what it was, I just didn't feel right. It's no excuse, but you're supposed to find it when you're out there and make an adjustment. [I] couldn't do that today."
Lester matched a season high with 10 strikeouts, finally getting win No. 150 in his fourth attempt. He's the 64th left-handed pitcher to reach the mark. Lester scattered five hits, and retired 18 of 19 hitters in a row at one point.
"He definitely has 200 [wins] within his sights," Maddon said of Lester. "It just speaks of his consistency. From our perspective, he got better from the first year to the second. He's been throwing the ball pretty well."
Lester said he'll wait until at least the season is over before reflecting on the milestone.
"Personal stuff is always cool, whatever, but at the end of the day, you play for the Cubs and want to win for the Cubs," Lester said. "That was a big one for us tonight on a lot of levels -- pitching, offense, baserunning, defense. It was a good night for us."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED First things first: Maddon wanted to take advantage of Rizzo's ability to get on base, so he inserted him into the leadoff spot for the first time in his career. It paid off. In the first, Rizzo launched the second pitch from Wheeler a projected 462 feet onto the batter's eye in center, according to Statcast™, his longest home run in the Statcast™ Era (since 2015). In the second, Rizzo came up with the bases loaded, fell behind 0-2 against Wheeler, and then worked the count full, eventually drawing a walk to drive in a run. Rizzo added an RBI double in the third.
Rizzo joked that if he singled in his first at-bat, he was going to try to steal right away and take advantage of his new role as leadoff man.
"He has fun with it," Maddon said of Rizzo. "He doesn't look at it any other way except it's going to be fun."
Big bat: The Mets had a runner at second in the first inning after Juan Lagares singled and stole second. One out later, he scored on Yoenis Cespedes' double, which tied the game at 1. Cespedes also singled with two outs in the third. Cespedes left Monday's game with a sore left heel after five innings and was lifted after five again on Tuesday. The Mets announced he was removed "because of the game situation."
Mets manager Terry Collins said he would "probably" not have Cespedes in the lineup Wednesday, as the Mets ease him back and follow a plan to manage his playing time that they established earlier in the week.
Highway robbery:Kyle Schwarber nearly notched the Cubs' fifth homer of the game when he launched a fly ball to right leading off the eighth. But the Mets' Jay Bruce was able to rob Schwarber with a perfectly timed catch at the wall, reaching over the top to grab the ball.
"It was just in reach," Bruce said.
"Short memory in this game is the best memory in my opinion, both good and bad. Because past performance doesn't tell you what's going to happen next. It doesn't matter how good or bad you've been. We've been playing really good baseball and we can't let one night ruin what we've had going. It was a tough night." -- Bruce, on the Mets having their four-game win streak snapped
"My reaction was, 'Why not?'" -- Lester, when asked his reaction to seeing Rizzo as leadoff man
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
At 22 years, 305 days old, Happ is the youngest switch-hitter in Cubs history to hit a grand slam. Larry Corcoran held that mark, hitting his on June 20, 1882, at the young age of 22 years, 314 days old.
According to baseball historian Christopher Kamka, Rizzo is the first Cubs player with a leadoff home run in his first Major League start leading off since Dee Fondy did so on June 12, 1951.
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs: Lefty Mike Montgomery will make his second start of the season in the series finale on Wednesday at Citi Field. In his first start subbing for Kyle Hendricks, in which he didn't have much time to prepare, Montgomery gave up two runs over four innings against the Rockies. First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT.
Mets:Matt Harvey takes his turn for the Mets in the final game of the series on Wednesday. The right-hander did not allow a run in his last start at Atlanta, but he will look to go further than the five innings he lasted. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.