CHICAGO (AP) — David Ross homered and teamed with Jon Lester for another scoreless performance, and the Chicago Cubs hurt St. Louis’ wild-card chances with 3-1 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday night.
Ben Zobrist had three hits and scored two runs as Chicago finished with a major league-best 57-24 home record. It’s the most home wins for the Cubs since they went 58-19 at the West Side Grounds in 1910.
The Cardinals lost for the third time in four games, wasting a chance to improve their playoff positioning. They remain a half-game back of San Francisco for the second NL wild card after the Giants lost 4-3 at San Diego earlier in the day.
Ross, Lester’s regular catcher, plans to retire after the season and was greeted with a long standing ovation when he came to the plate in the second inning. St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina walked halfway to the mound, forcing the unassuming Ross to take in the moment, and he took off his batting helmet to acknowledge the cheering crowd of 40,859.
Ross then struck out against Carlos Martinez, but he got another chance in the fifth and drove the right-hander’s second pitch over the wall in left for 1 -0 lead. Ross clapped his hands as he rounded first on his 10th homer and the cheers continued after he reached the dugout, prompting a curtain call.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon pulled Ross with two out in the top of the seventh, giving the crowd another opportunity to cheer the journeyman catcher.
Lester (19-4), one of the top candidates for the NL Cy Young Award, struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings. The left-hander allowed three hits and walked one while improving to 10-0 with 1.34 ERA in his last 13 starts.
The Cardinals pulled within one on Jhonny Peralta’s two-out RBI single in the eighth, but Brandon Moss flied to center with runners on the corners. Willson Contreras responded with an RBI single in the bottom half and Aroldis Chapman worked the ninth for his 16th save with the NL Central champions and No. 36 on the year.
Martinez (15-9) allowed two runs and six hits in six innings, dropping to 3-2 in five September starts. He struck out six and walked four.