CHICAGO — The Cincinnati Reds have given the Chicago Cubs fits all season. But just when Reds appeared on the verge of winning their sixth straight game against the reigning National League Central champions Nick Nelson Jersey , the Cubs turned to a familiar ally.
The Cubs twice rallied from five runs down on Saturday to pull out an 8-7 victory. They will head into Sunday’s matinee at Wrigley Field with a chance to capture the series. Having staff ace Jon Lester on the mound certainly won’t hurt.
Lester will take his 11-2 record and 2.25 ERA into the start a day after the Cubs produced four eighth-inning runs for their dramatic win.The Cubs’ last eight wins all have come after they fell behind early.
“I love the fight,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters after the team’s 50th win of the season. “Both sides wanted to win (and) we got it in the end.
“We’ve been in this situation all week.”
Added Cubs second baseman Javier Baez, who homered in the seventh inning before the Cubs mounted their latest comeback: “We never quit.”
The rally stunned the Reds, who appeared in line for their sixth win in their last seven games and their 15th in the past 19. Instead, Lester will take the mound in search of his eighth straight victory.
Lester was named NL Pitcher of the Month in June and is tied for the league lead in victories. Lester, who has won seven straight starts dating to May 23, will look to keep rolling against the Reds, against whom he is 6-1 in 14 starts.
In Lester’s last start — an 11-10 victory over the Minnesota Twins — he added an extra bonus — a solo home run. But Lester, who has struggled traditionally from the plate, won’t get too wrapped up in the excitement.
“If I get hits, I get hits,” Lester told reporters after his last outing on July 1. “The home run is awesome, it’s cool Duke Dawson Jersey , especially at home. But at the end of the day, I know I’m a pitcher and I’m not a hitter.”
The Cubs, who are playing without third baseman Kris Bryant — whom Maddon said will begin a minor league assignment soon — may be without right fielder Jason Heyward. He left Saturday’s loss in the third inning after fouling a ball off his groin.
The Reds enter Sunday’s series finale looking for their sixth straight series. But after Cincinnati touched up Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood for seven runs only to see Jared Hughes surrender a three-run lead, the Reds will attempt to regain their winning ways after Saturday’s shocker.
Cincinnati’s bullpen had, until Saturday, been able to protect late leads, which made Saturday’s loss so unfathomable. It marked only the third time this season the Reds lost after leading heading into the eighth inning.
“We’ve come back on a few clubs like that,” Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman told reporters, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Today, (the Cubs) did it to us.”
Luis Castillo (5-8, 5.53) will start Sunday for the Reds and will attempt to bounce back from a disappointing June. He finished the month 1-3 and allowed at least three earned runs in each of his five outings. Castillo is 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA in three career starts against the Cubs.
Jon Cooper is confident the Tampa Bay Lightning will be fine.
Experience tells the coach and his players they shouldn’t be overly concerned about losing the opening game of the Eastern Conference finals at home.
The way the Washington Capitals are playing, though, it could be more difficult to rebound from a shabby performance this time.
Game 2 is Sunday night Harrison Butker Jersey , and Cooper expects the Atlantic Division winners to be at their best.
”It’s unfortunate how we played a couple of these Game 1s in the last couple of rounds, (and) dug ourselves a small hole this series,” the coach said after a workout Saturday at the team’s suburban practice facility.
”I guess the positive side is we’ve been here before, so we’ve seen this. But we can’t keep playing with fire and dropping these Game 1s, which we’ve done. All of a sudden you’ve thrown home ice advantage back at them. Now you’ve put pressure on yourself. You got to go win games on the road, which you have to do anyway in the playoffs, but your margin for error gets smaller and smaller. We’re really going to need a good effort (Sunday).”
The Capitals won the opener 4-2, ending an eight-game playoff losing skid to Tampa Bay dating to the 2003 postseason.
Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Jay Beagle and Lars Eller scored for Washington, while rejuvenated goaltender Braden Holtby stopped 19 shots to help the Caps improve to 6-1 on the road this postseason.
The Lightning didn’t take solace in breaking through for a pair of third-period goals.
”We dissected the game a little bit,” Cooper said. ”There were so many good things we’ve done in two rounds of hockey that I think if you bottled up all the bad things in those first 10 games it would be about half of what we did in that one game last night.
”You fueled the fire of a good team, and that’s what Washington is. I thought a lot of their opportunities we just handed to them Lawrence Taylor Jersey , and a lot of our opportunities were stomped out just by our not sticking to our plan of what’s worked.”
The Capitals, in the conference finals for the first time in the Ovechkin era, said they can’t afford a drop-off in performance.
Beating two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh gave them momentum heading into the series.
Coach Barry Trotz, mindful that Tampa Bay lost Game 1 of its second-round series 6-2 to Boston only to strom back and win four straight games, reiterated it won’t be easy to build off the Caps’ success in the opener.
”You get a little bit of confidence, obviously,” Trotz said at the team hotel Saturday. ”At the same time we’ve got to realize Tampa Bay is going to have some desperation in their game. And, we better have some desperation in our game.”
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay’s All-Star goaltender, yielded four goals on 25 shots in two periods after entering the series with an 8-2 record, 2.20 goals-against average and .927 save percentage through two rounds.
The Lightning are confident they’ll play better in front of him in Game 2. The Caps expect the goaltender to bounce back, too.
”One thing you got to remember, this is not the NCAA basketball tournament Will Dissly Jersey , it’s not one and done,” Cooper said. ”It’s the best of seven, so you get a chance to make some adjustments to improve your game and really get a look at the other team. … It’s hard to play flawless hockey all the way through.”
The Caps don’t expect the Lightning to panic, either.
”Obviously, it doesn’t matter what we did in Game 1 when it comes to Game 2,” Beagle said.
”I would imagine there will be a really good push back from a really good hockey team. We’re going to have to stay focused, not get ahead of ourselves,” Oshie concluded. ”I can’t imagine we’re going to see the same Tampa team we saw in the first period the rest of this series.”
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