MIAMI (AP) – When Jon Lester gave up a three-run homer in the first inning Saturday, he drew upon a long-ago lesson from former teammates Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett: Start the start over.
Lester retired the next 13 in a row, went seven innings and helped the Chicago Cubs rally past the Miami Marlins 5-3.
After J.T. Realmuto homered on a hanging curve to put Miami up 3-1, Lester (5-4) allowed only two more baserunners, both on singles.
“When you give up three in the first, you have to try to figure out a way to pitch innings,” Lester said. “That’s one thing I learned at an early age in Boston with Schill and Josh: Man, it doesn’t matter, we start over. You have to take that mindset, and not keep looking at the scoreboard.”
Eventually the scoreboard favored the Cubs. Javier Baez had an RBI single in the fourth, and his two-run double in the sixth put them ahead to stay.
Jon Jay, a one-day sub for Anthony Rizzo in the leadoff spot, had two hits and scored a run. Addison Russell had two hits and scored twice.
Lester beat Miami for the first time in five career starts. He has gone at least six innings in each of his past three starts, and the Cubs have won them all.
“He is pitching as well as I’ve seen him pitch,” manager Joe Maddon said.
“I feel better now than I did in April and May for sure,” Lester said. “Some years you come out like gangbusters. Other years it just takes a while to get into that rhythm of pitching every five days. This was one of those years.”
His colleagues in the rotation are warming up, too. Cubs starters have an ERA of 2.52 over the past 11 games.
Wade Davis completed the four-hitter with a 1-2-3 ninth for his 15th save. The Marlins have only 16 hits in their past four games but have won two of them.
“We’re swinging at some pitches we shouldn’t be swinging at,” Realmuto said.
Miami’s Justin Nicolino remained winless in five starts, allowing three runs, two earned, in four innings. The damage might have been worse, but catcher Realmuto, third baseman Martin Prado and first baseman Tyler Moore helped him with fine defensive plays.
Third baseman Baez and second baseman Ian Happ made flashy plays to rob the Marlins.
“The defense in the infield played really, really well,” Lester said.
USING THE FIELD
Happ, Almora Jr. and Baez all had run-scoring hits going the opposite way.
“That was awesome to see,” Maddon said. “We’re just trying to get these guys to understand there’s more than one side to a baseball field.”
CUBS FANS SHOW UP
The crowd of 25,448 was the largest at Marlins Park since May 13. Some spectators cheered for the home team.
1B Rizzo was given a breather and held out of the lineup.
“I don’t want to beat him up,” Maddon said. “We’ve got a long way to go, and if you ride them too hard, the point of diminishing returns will set in. I’ve been a part of way too many teams that have been exhausted in September.”
When Rizzo pinch-hit in the ninth, he drew perhaps the biggest cheer of the day, startling Maddon.
“I was looking around – ‘Did somebody walk in the door? Is it A-Rod and J-Lo?'” Maddon said with a smile. “‘Oh, it was Anthony.'”
Rizzo will be back in the leadoff spot Sunday, Maddon said.
Cubs: 2B Ben Zobrist (left wrist) is unlikely to return for the Cubs’ next series against the Nationals, and a rehab stint is a possibility. … LHP Brett Anderson (strained lower back) will begin a rehab assignment Sunday when he pitches for Double-A Tennessee.
Marlins: SS Adeiny Hechavarria (oblique), who has been the disabled list since May 10, is expected to the rejoin the Marlins on Tuesday for the start of their series against the Mets – if he’s not traded before then.
Miami RHP Edinson Volquez (3-8, 4.29) is scheduled to face LHP Mike Montgomery (1-3, 2.26) in the series finale Sunday.