Once again, Jon Lester comes through the Cubs in a critical win over the Pirates

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Starting pitcher Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs delivers the ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field on September 27, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – At a point in the season where you leave nothing to chance, the Cubs’ lefty very rarely gives opportunities to his opponents.

That’s why Theo Epstein and the franchise gave him a six-year, $155 million contract at the end of 2014. He’s come through on multiple occasions, from Opening Day to playoff games, and stints in two World Series elimination games.

Stress like that wasn’t there for Jon Lester on Thursday night, but with the Cubs locked in a tight race with the Brewers for first in the National League Central Division, Thursday’s contest with the Pirates had a decent amount at stake.

Not that Lester was going to blink in this situation, and he delivered another classic performance in a Cubs’ uniform.

The lefty pitched six shutout innings, allowing just three hits while striking out four batters. He walked four and reached 108 pitches quickly, but the effort was plenty in a 3-0 victory over the Pirates that drops the Cubs’ Magic Number for an NL Central title to three with the Brewers having the night off.

Now the Cardinals come to town for three games starting on Friday while Milwaukee faces Detroit for a trio of games, each swith a chance at the division crown.

Lester made sure the Brewers wouldn’t move into a tie on Thursday night, though it was a bit of a shaky start. Two walks and a single loaded the bases with just one out, but the lefty got Jose Osuna swinging; then got Josh Harrison to ground out to get through the jam.

After that, only two runners reached second, and one got to third for the Pirates as Lester settled into a groove, walking only two batters in the final five innings. Meanwhile his offense picked him up in the second as David Bote slapped a two-run triple to left to give the Cubs the lead. Lester contributed to the third run of the game as he dashed towards home from second on a hit by Daniel Murphy, sliding into home to beat the tag for a 3-0 advantage.

Steve Cishek and Carl Edwards Jr. pitched scoreless 7th and 8th innings, respectively, after Lester left the game. Jesse Chavez did the same in the 9th to pick up the save and give Lester another critical victory in a Cubs’ uniform.