Chicago Cubs shut down Houston Astros behind Jon Lester, Kris Bryant

By MoiseKapenda Bower, The Sports Xchange   |   Sept. 10, 2016 at 12:51 AM
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HOUSTON -- Jon Lester continued his exceptional second-half pitching while Kris Bryant supplied the offense in the Chicago Cubs' 2-0 victory over the Houston Astros on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

The Cubs (90-50) improved to 14-4 in interleague games this season behind Lester (16-4), who allowed seven hits while posting seven strikeouts over seven innings. Lester improved to 7-0 with a 1.65 ERA over 10 starts since the All-Star break and has allowed seven runs over his last eight starts covering 53 2/3 innings.

The Astros (74-67) put leadoff runners on base in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings against Lester yet came away empty. Lester ran into a spot of trouble in the seventh but rallied to record a called third strike against Astros left fielder Colby Rasmus with Yulieski Gurriel and Marwin Gonzalez in scoring position.

After right-hander Hector Rondon struck out two batters in the eighth inning for the Cubs, closer Aroldis Chapman recorded his 13th save with Chicago (and 34th overall) with a six-pitch ninth. The Cubs are 13-1 in their last 14 series openers.

Joe Musgrove (2-4) became the first Astros starter to work at least six innings since right-hander Collin McHugh reached that benchmark Aug. 30 and for a spell, he proved skillful at eluding the danger that he caused.

Despite allowing a leadoff triple to Dexter Fowler in the first inning and a pair of two-out baserunners in the third, Musgrove carried a shutout into the fifth inning. The walks he issued to Anthony Rizzo in the first inning and Bryant in the third proved to be speed bumps but also forecast control issues that proved troublesome.

With two outs in the fifth, Musgrove ended his string of six consecutive batters retired with a walk to Fowler. On the fourth pitch of his third confrontation with Bryant, Musgrove rolled a breaking ball over the heart of the plate that Bryant deposited into the Crawford Boxes in left field for his 37th home run.

Musgrove departed after six innings, allowing two runs on three hits and three walks with five strikeouts.

NOTES: The Astros remain optimistic that SS Carlos Correa will return at some point this weekend from the left shoulder inflammation that sidelined him for the final two games of the Indians series. Correa was not in the starting lineup Friday and will undergo daily strength tests until the inflammation has subsided. ... Cubs RHP Justin Grimm was healthy and available after facing just one batter Wednesday against the Brewers before departing with an illness. ... Astros LHP Dallas Keuchel will resume a throwing program no earlier than Monday as he works his way back from left shoulder inflammation. Keuchel will miss a third consecutive start this weekend, and he last pitched on Aug. 27 against the Rays, allowing two runs on nine hits and one walk with four strikeouts over seven innings in a 6-2 victory.

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