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5:05 PM PT6:05 PM MT7:05 PM CT8:05 PM ET20:05 ET0:05 GMT8:05 5:05 PM MST7:05 PM EST7:35 PM VEN4:05 UAE (+1)7:05 PM CT, September 18, 2019
Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois  Attendance: 36,578

Lester ready to step up as Cubs face Reds

According to STATS
According to STATS

Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs

  1. The Reds and Cubs meet for their final series of 2019, with Cincinnati holding a 9-7 edge in the season series. The Reds haven't finished a season with a winning record against the Cubs since 2014, when then went 11-8.
  2. The Cubs swept the Pirates over the weekend, scoring 17, 14 and 16 runs for 47 total runs, three runs shy of the modern-day record by an NL team in a three-game series. They also became the first NL team to score at least 14 runs in three straight games since the 1930 Cubs scored 16, 15 and 18 in three straight. That Cubs team went on to plate 10 and 13 in the next two.
  3. Kris Bryant had three homers over the weekend, and is now 11-for-22 with five home runs, 13 RBI and eight runs over a six-game hitting streak. Since 2015, his 89 hits are the most in MLB against the Reds, while his runs (61), doubles (23) and RBI (52) trail only Anthony Rizzo (66, 24, 68) for the most in the majors against the Cincinnati franchise.
  4. Yu Darvish, Tuesday's scheduled starter, struck out 14 over six scoreless innings against the Padres on Thursday. His 29.7 percent of swings that miss on the season is the best by a Cubs ERA qualifier since Kerry Wood was at 32.6 in 2003.
  5. Eugenio Suarez homered twice Sunday, and now has 47 on the season -- the most by a Red since George Foster hit a franchise-record 52 in 1977. Suarez is one home run from matching the single-season record for homers by a third baseman shared by Phillies Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt in 1980 and Adrian Beltre for the 2004 Dodgers.
  6. Tyler Mahle, who takes the ball in Wednesday's finale, has gone 11 straight starts since his last win on May 31. The last Reds pitcher to have a longer winless stretch in a season was Dontrelle Willis, who made 12 consecutive starts without a victory in 2011.
Notes Applicable For Series Dates: 9/16/2019 thru 9/18/2019
(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Jon Lester relied on his teammates for a lift during his most recent start for the Chicago Cubs.

As the left-hander prepares to face the visiting Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday night with the Cubs in the hunt for a playoff spot, Lester is hoping to be a catalyst himself.

Lester (13-10, 4.59 ERA) earned one of the wilder victories in his career on Friday. After yielding four first-inning runs to the Pittsburgh Pirates, he watched in appreciation as his teammates rallied for five runs in the bottom half, including home runs from Nicholas Castellanos, Willson Contreras and Nico Hoerner.

"Oh man, that's huge," Lester said.

Not unlike Chicago's offensive contributions. Although he allowed seven runs -- four earned -- in five innings, Lester notched the third victory in his past four starts thanks to a Cubs attack that produced 17 runs.

With Tuesday's loss to the Reds, Chicago (82-69) fell into a tie with the Milwaukee Brewers for the second National League wild-card spot, as Milwaukee defeated the San Diego Padres earlier Tuesday. Both Chicago and Milwaukee are 1 1/2 games behind the Washington Nationals for the top wild-card spot.

They're also both two games behind the first-place St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.

As the Cubs vie for a fifth straight postseason berth, their veteran core knows they must maintain an even keel, circumstances notwithstanding.

"We're all trying too hard sometimes," Lester said. "I'm guilty of it. I think everybody in the clubhouse is guilty of it. You want to win the game before the game's even played. That's part of the grind of playing 162 games. You get into those funks sometimes. I think a game like (Friday) can help guys loosen up a little bit."

The Reds (71-81) officially were eliminated from playoff contention with Monday's 8-2 loss to the Cubs. Another defeat would assure the club of its sixth consecutive losing season.

"For me, it's all about making the postseason," Reds manager David Bell said. "That's now next year, but part of the process is playing well the rest of the way this year."

Bell appreciated the way the Reds rebounded and fought to take the middle game of the three-game set on Tuesday.

"For our team in general, not only playing here, but playing in so many close games against really good teams all year long, the record isn't where we want it in those close games," Bell said. "But having that experience, we needed that, and we've gotten a lot of it."

Right-hander Tyler Mahle is set to get the start for the Reds as he aims to solidify a spot in the 2020 starting rotation. Mahle is 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA in three starts since returning from Triple-A Louisville.

Lester is 7-2 with a 4.00 ERA in 18 career starts against Cincinnati, but is 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA in two starts covering 10 2/3 innings this season.

Mahle is 2-1 with a 4.18 ERA in four career starts against the Cubs. He took a no-decision in his lone start against Chicago this season after allowing six runs on nine hits -- including three homers -- in five innings.

--Field Level Media

Updated September 18, 2019

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