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Jon Lester shuts down Pirates as Cubs manage split in doubleheader

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Lester outpitched J.A. Happ in the night game as the Cubs beat the Pirates 2-1 to split the two teams' doubleheader.

Not to pin this loss on Happ, because if you strike out eight batters and walk two over 5.2 innings, you almost surely aren't doing too badly. And indeed, Happ's fastball was really good, as usual, when he located it -- he pounded his fastball inside against righties and got a lot of swings and misses.

But while many of Happ's starts since his arrival in Pittsburgh have felt magical, this one felt less than that. Just as Gerrit Cole was better than his final line in the early game (as the ROOT Sports broadcasters tonight rightly pointed out), Happ was probably a bit worse than his. There was a fair amount of hard contact and some poorly located pitches, and Happ benefited from some good defensive plays by Aramis Ramirez and a now-healthy Starling Marte in the early innings.

The Cubs got one in the first as Austin Jackson hit a one-out double and then came home as Anthony Rizzo lined a single to right. Happ also got into a big jam in the fifth and, to his credit, escaped after having only allowed one run. David Ross doubled and then moved to third as the Pirates unsuccessfully tried to tag him on Jon Lester's sacrifice attempt. Then Happ threw a fastball right down the middle to Dexter Fowler, who smashed it over Andrew McCutchen's head in center. Luckily for the Pirates, Lester didn't have much of a lead and is slow, so he got stuck at third. Happ got two swinging strikeouts and, after intentionally walking Rizzo, retired Starlin Castro to leave the bases loaded.

Happ then allowed a leadoff double to Javier Baez in the sixth, but got bailed out a few batters later when Baez made a late and futile attempt to come home on Lester's bunt. Arquimedes Caminero came in after that and whiffed Fowler to end the threat.

Meanwhile, the Pirates couldn't do much against Lester, who pitched a complete game and struck out nine. Their only run came in the seventh -- Aramis Ramirez and Francisco Cervelli led off the inning with singles and Ramirez came home as Mike Morse grounded into a double play. Other than that, they had few scoring chances against the Cubs' star lefty.