CHICAGO | Walt Weiss couldn’t question his team’s fight. But no matter how hard the Colorado Rockies battled, Jon Lester proved unbeatable.
Lester struck out 14, one shy of his career high and the most for a Cubs pitcher in more than a decade, leading Chicago over the Rockies 3-2 on Wednesday.
Lester (6-8) mowed through the Rockies lineup and struck out seven of his first eight hitters and nine of the first 14. He allowed two runs, five hits and one walk in eight innings.
His strikeout high was set for Boston on May 3 last year against Oakland. He became the first Cubs pitcher to strike out 14 since Mark Prior had 16 on Sept. 30, 2004.
“His stuff was electric today,” said right fielder Carlos Gonzalez, who homered off Lester.
In his first game with the Rockies, Jose Reyes — acquired in the trade that sent Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins to Toronto — went 1 for 3 and was the only hitter to reach base for the Rockies over the first three innings.
“Lester was locked in and he didn’t miss really, with anything,” Weiss said.
Lester said he wasn’t tracking how many strikeouts he had, but knew he was in a good place throughout the day.
“I was able to locate heaters on both sides of the plate,” Lester said. “It was good. It was consistent.”
Hector Rondon worked around Gonzalez’s two-out walk in a hitless ninth for his 13th save in 16 chances.
Anthony Rizzo hit his first homer since July 7, a wind-blown, two-run drive in the third that glanced off the right-field foul pole for his 17th this season.
Chicago leadoff batter Dexter Fowler homered in the first off Eddie Butler (3-7), who allowed three runs and five hits in five innings.
Gonzalez hit his 21st homer, a solo shot off Lester in the seventh. Nolan Arenado hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth. Colorado’s DJ LeMahieu was 0 for 4, ending his 18-game hitting streak on a day when the Rockies couldn’t generate much of anything against Lester.
“I thought we fought right to the end,” Weiss said. “We just ran into an elite pitcher today that was on his game.”
Rockies: To make room for him on the roster, the Rockies optioned INF Cristhian Adames back to Triple-A Albuquerque.
Cubs: RHP Neil Ramirez was placed the 15-day DL because of left abdominal soreness.
RHP Yoervis Medina was recalled from Iowa, and the Cubs selected the contract of RHP and sinkerball Ben Rowen from the Triple-A team. The Cubs signed Rowen on July 5 after Baltimore released him. The Cubs optioned RHP Dallas Beeler to Iowa and designated utilityman Mike Baxter for assignment. … INF Tommy La Stella (rib/oblique) was sent to Double-A Tennessee on Wednesday to begin a rehab assignment. La Stella has been sidelined since April 8.
Rockies: LHP Chris Rusin (3-4) is to open a four-game series at St. Louis against RHP Carlos Martinez (11-4).
Cubs: RHP Jake Arietta (11-6, 2.61 ERA) takes the mound against RHP Jimmy Nelson (8-9) as Cubs open a four-game series in Milwaukee. Arietta was the loser last Saturday as the Phillies’ Cole Hamels no-hit Chicago.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon didn’t start regular SS Starlin Casto and RF Jorge Soler as the Cubs played a day game after a night contest. Chris Coghlan started in right and Addison Russell shifted to shortstop, with Jonathan Herrera taking over at second base.
When Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo drove a ball to right field Wednesday, Rockies RHP Eddie Butler didn’t think it was trouble. That’s when the notorious Wrigley winds came into play. Rizzo’s 2-run homer in the third inning proved to be the difference in a 3-2 win, but Butler initially didn’t think it was more than a pop fly.
“I was already walking off toward the dugout and as I’m walking off, I’m watching (RF Carlos Gonzalez) and he keeps going back. He gets to the track and I’m like, ‘There’s no way.'”