Jon Lester and the Chicago Cubs take on the San Diego Padres on Sunday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs have managed to do just enough in the past two days against San Diego to put themselves in position to walk away with a series victory when they host the Padres on Sunday.
If Chicago wasn't confident enough to begin with, having left-handed ace Jon Lester on the mound to finish the four-game set at Wrigley Field certainly won't hurt matters.
Lester (12-4, 3.22 ERA) will attempt to extend the Cubs' winning streak to three games Sunday after Chicago held off San Diego 5-4 on Saturday. The Cubs' offense provided a spark early with a five-run second inning before the bullpen made it stand up after the Padres dwindled the deficit to one run and the Cubs squandered a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation in the seventh.
Pedro Strop, who has moved into the closer's role while Brandon Morrow remains on the disabled list, picked up the save for a second straight day as Chicago is assured to remain in sole possession of first place heading into Sunday's series finale.
"He really took to it," Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters after Saturday's victory. "It's definitely within his abilities. I think (Friday's save) helped a lot going into today.''
With the bullpen intact, Lester will try to get back on track. After a red-hot start to the season that landed him All-Star honors, Lester has dropped two of his last three outings, sandwiching a no-decision. Lester has allowed 13 runs in his last three games, including four in seven innings in his last game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Lester is 3-1 with a 3.28 ERA in six career starts against the Padres, with the most recent earlier this season -- a 7-4 victory on July 15 when he allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings.
Lester takes the mound a day after injured starter Yu Darvish threw a 55-pitch bullpen session Saturday. Darvish is attempting to come back from an elbow injury that has prolonged his second disabled list stint of the season.
"All of my pitches, velocity-wise, were at the highest level and I was able to follow through with my arm motion," Darvish told reporters through an interpreter, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The Padres enter Sunday having lost eight of their last nine. After capturing the series opener Thursday, San Diego has battled back in two consecutive one-run losses.
Joey Lucchesi (5-6, 3.74) will start for the Padres a day after he was scheduled to start against the Cubs. A stomach bug kept Lucchesi confined to his hotel room on Friday. Lucchesi will face the Cubs for the first time in his career.
On Saturday, the Padres placed left fielder Wil Myers on the 10-day disabled list with a bruised foot. Myers was removed from Thursday's 6-1 victory after he fouled a pitch off the foot. X-rays came back negative and an MRI and CT scan conducted Friday did not show a fracture.
Outfielder Franmil Reyes was called up from Triple-A El Paso to replace Myers on the roster.
"It's one of those fluke things you really can't do anything about," San Diego manager Andy Green told reporters, according to the team's official website. "You never know with these types of things -- how long it takes to get ... guys to start weight bearing again, to feel good and ready to go. Hopefully, it's not long at all, but we'll wait and see."