Jon Lester pitched six innings, drove in two runs with a timely single off Noah Syndergaard and made two nice plays in the field, helping the Chicago Cubs beat the New York Mets 7-4 on Monday night for their sixth consecutive victory.
Anthony Rizzo homered and Daniel Murphy reached three more times from the leadoff spot as NL-leading Chicago moved a season-high 24 games over .500 by improving to 5-0 against New York this year. Murphy, who began his career with the Mets, is batting .407 (11 for 27) in six games since he was acquired in a trade with Washington.
Lester was in line for his 15th win before Kevin Plawecki hit a solo homer off Steve Cishek (4-1) in the seventh, tying it at 4 on a warm and windy night at Wrigley Field. But the Cubs went ahead to stay with two runs in the bottom half, including Ben Zobrist's tiebreaking double off Jerry Blevins (1-2).
New York loaded the bases in the ninth before Jesse Chavez struck out Amed Rosario and Austin Jackson for his third save of the season, helping the Cubs (77-53) increase their NL Central lead to 4 1/2 games over idle St. Louis.
Michael Conforto also homered for New York, which had won four of six. Syndergaard allowed four runs and nine hits, struck out six and walked three in six innings.
Lester was hit hard early on, including Conforto's massive leadoff drive in the second - a projected 472 feet to the bleachers above the batter's eye in center field. Rosario then made it 3-1 with a two-out RBI single, but the Mets lost out on a chance for more when Wilmer Flores popped up with the bases loaded.
The Cubs responded with three runs in the third, capped by Lester's big hit. Syndergaard issued an intentional walk to Kyle Schwarber with two outs, loading the bases, but Lester wrecked the Mets' strategy by dumping a two-run single into left-center.
Lester also helped himself in the field. The left-hander, who has had trouble throwing to bases, picked off Rosario after he reached on third baseman David Bote's error in the fifth. He also speared Jose Reyes' line drive for the final out of his outing.
Up next for the Cubs, Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom (8-8, 1.71 ERA) and Cubs left-hander Cole Hamels (9-9, 3.82 ERA) square off tonight in a matchup between two of baseball's hottest pitchers. DeGrom, one of the leading contenders for the NL Cy Young Award, has a 1.26 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings over five August starts. Hamels is 4-0 with a sparkling 0.79 ERA in five starts since he was acquired in a July 27 trade with Texas.