NEW YORK — Jon Lester dominated for seven innings and Javier Baez stole home to break a scoreless tie as the Chicago Cubs blanked the New York Mets 2-0 Sunday, completing a four-game sweep and winning for the seventh time in eight games.
The Mets have lost four straight and nine of 11, dropping three games under .500 for the first time this season. They scored just six runs in this series.
The two clubs were back at it on Sunday following a rainy, 14-inning marathon that took almost five hours to complete the night before.
On an unseasonably cool afternoon, both starting pitchers matched zeroes until the seventh, when the Cubs scored twice thanks to some very aggressive baserunning.
Baez and Willson Contreras led off with back-to-back singles, putting runners at the corners. With Ian Happ at the plate, Chicago pulled off a daring double steal.
Mets starter Steven Matz (2-4) was unaware that Baez was breaking for the plate, stepping off and throwing to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in an attempt to pick off Contreras instead.
Gonzalez fired home but it was too late to catch the sliding Baez, who scored easily while Contreras advanced to second. An amped-up Baez was greeted by raucous cheers and smiles in the Cubs dugout— including a big grin on the face of Lester.
With runners on the corners again later in the inning, Ben Zobrist hit a popup to shallow right field. Second baseman Luis Guillorme made an awkward stretching catch and was not in position to make a clean throw home, allowing Contreras to score and giving the Cubs a 2-0 lead on an unlikely sacrifice fly.
Lester (6-2) walked the first two batters of the game but proceeded to strike out the side. The four-time All-Star then retired 14 in a row until two outs in the fifth inning, when shortstop Addison Russell misplayed a two-out grounder off the bat of the speedy Amed Rosario into an error.
Playing short-handed due to multiple injuries, the Mets were forced to slot five lefties into the starting lineup against a tough southpaw.
Lester faced his only real challenge in the sixth inning. With one out, Jose Bautista was hit on the foot with a pitch. After Jay Bruce flied out, cleanup hitter Kevin Plawecki’s sharp grounder to the left side grazed Baez’s glove but continued on into left field for New York’s first hit of the game.
Michael Conforto walked to load the bases, but Lester coaxed a weak grounder from Gonzalez to end the threat.
Lester allowed just two hits, walking three and striking out seven.
Brian Duensing pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save in two chances.
Cubs: 3B Kris Bryant was given the day off to rest. Happ manned first base for the first time in his career. … SS Russell left the game with a left middle finger contusion.
Mets: LF Yoenis Cespedes (strained right hip flexor) will face live pitching on Tuesday. Manager Mickey Callaway is not sure if the slugger will play in any minor league games before returning, noting that the club will “lean on him” when making that decision. … RHP Noah Syndergaard (strained ligament in right index finger) was scheduled to throw a light side session Sunday. … RHP Anthony Swarzak (strained left oblique) was set to pitch for Triple-A Las Vegas on Sunday in what could be his final rehab appearance, according to Callaway. … RHP AJ Ramos (strained right shoulder) has yet to begin throwing. … C Devin Mesoraco felt some tightness in his hamstring during Saturday’s game and was lifted as part of a double switch. … 3B Todd Frazier (strained left hamstring) is likely to be activated Tuesday. … 3B David Wright (shoulder and back surgeries) fielded grounders before the game.
Cubs: Chicago begins a six-game homestand Tuesday against the Phillies, sending RHP Kyle Hendricks (4-4, 3.19 ERA) to the hill in the series opener against RHP Zach Eflin (1-2, 4.50 ERA).
Mets: Following a much-needed off day, New York welcomes Baltimore to town for a two-game set. LHP Jason Vargas (2-3, 8.53 ERA) is slated to start for the Mets Tuesday night. The Orioles counter with RHP Dylan Bundy (3-7, 4.46 ERA).