Cubs muscle past Giants to back Lester

Cubs muscle past Giants to back Lester

CHICAGO -- When Jon Lester and Johnny Cueto last squared off, it was Game 1 of the National League Division Series, and the Cubs won on Javier Baez's eighth-inning home run. On Tuesday, the Cubs didn't wait that long to connect against the Giants right-hander.

Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward homered in the first and second innings, respectively, and Anthony Rizzo added a two-run shot in the fourth to give Lester all he needed and power the Cubs to a 4-1 victory Tuesday night over the Giants.

"We were able to get four tonight instead of one like we did against Cueto in the playoffs," Heyward said. "It was kind of a similar game. It's another four-game set against these guys like we had last year [in the postseason]. It's going to be a good [series]; pitchers are going to pitch and we have to take what we can get on both sides. For Jonny to come out and do something like that is huge, especially against a guy like Cueto."

Heyward's solo homer

After a rain delay of 1 hour, 5 minutes, Lester struck out the side in the first on 15 pitches and then posted the first complete game by a Cubs pitcher this season, and his first since Sept. 2 when he went the distance against the Giants. The lefty struck out 10 and faced the minimum in every inning but the fifth when the Giants tallied on Brandon Crawford's RBI double.

"The complete game now is few and far between," Lester said. "There's always that gratification to finish it and walk off and shake everybody's hand as they come off the field."

Lester felt the Giants were aggressive against him -- he did not have a single three-ball count in the game -- and felt he and catcher Willson Contreras were able to disguise their pitches.

"He threw a lot more changeups than I've ever seen when facing him," said Giants catcher Buster Posey, who recalled seeing that pitch from Lester on a 2-0 count. "He's shown it in the past, but tonight he had good command of it. It wasn't just a show-me pitch. He used it a lot. He used it to lefties as well."

Lester's dazzling complete game

Cueto now has given up 11 homers this season after serving up 15 all of last year. It's the first time he's given up three in a game since the Orioles hit four off the right-hander Sept. 13, 2015. Cueto did strike out eight over six innings, scattering five hits. The Giants lost for only the third time in their last 11 games.

"He just pitches so well," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's a fun baseball player. He's definitely a throwback and I really enjoy watching him play, even his at-bats."

• Cueto hampered by blisters

Cueto picks off Zobrist

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Ballhawks: Schwarber gave a 3-2 slider from Cueto a ride with one out in the first, launching the pitch over the right-field bleachers and onto Sheffield Avenue. It was Schwarber's seventh homer of the season and the first by any player to hit the street this year. It also was Schwarber's first home run with two strikes in the count. The ball had some oomph as the exit velocity was measured at 114 mph and it sailed 470 feet. It's the longest non-Kris Bryant home run tracked by Statcast™. Bryant leads the team with homers of 495 feet and 477 feet.

"It got small fast," Maddon said of Schwarber's blast. "It's almost like when you used to watch 'Star Trek,' when it came on, and the Enterprise would just fly by and get really small. It kind of had that Enterprise-esque look to it -- it was there and it was gone. It got small quickly." More >

Statcast: Schwarber's 470-ft. HR

Defense: Lester faced the minimum number of batters through four innings. Posey then doubled to open the Giants fifth and one out later, he scored on Crawford's double. Eduardo Nunez singled, but catcher Contreras threw him out attempting to steal second and Lester struck out Gorkys Hernandez to end the Giants' threat. It's the ninth time Contreras has thrown out a baserunner this season. According to Statcast™, Contreras' pop time was 1.89 with an arm strength of 84.8 mph.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy defended Nunez, who had the green light to run if he wished.

"We weren't going to stop him there," Bochy said. "We're going to keep on being aggressive."

Contreras throws out Nunez

Said Lester: "[Contreras] was the one who called time before he threw Nunez out because we had a different pitch and he had a feeling they were going to try to go there. I knew if I was fairly quick to the plate, we had a chance. I thought Crawford was going to try to go and do a double steal, but Willie put it on the money again."

QUOTABLE
"It impacts the rest of the starting pitchers. It's contagious, like hitting is contagious. They feed off one another and that's what we have to do on a more consistent basis. I like to believe something like that can tweak the starters in a good way." -- Maddon, on Lester's complete game

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Lester is the first Cubs pitcher with a complete game under 100 pitches since Carlos Zambrano did so on Sept. 25, 2009, against the Giants (98 pitches).

WHAT'S NEXT
Giants: Matt Moore hopes to continue his mini-surge when he opposes the Cubs in Wednesday's 5:05 p.m. PT encounter. The left-hander is 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA in his last three starts. He has never faced the Cubs in the regular season, though he allowed them two runs (one earned) while striking out 10 in eight innings in Game 4 of last year's Division Series.

Cubs: Kyle Hendricks will make his fourth career start against the Giants on Wednesday night in the third game of this four-game series. He's 2-1 with a 1.82 ERA in his last five starts after opening the season with a 6.19 ERA in three outings. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

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.

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