CLEVELAND — A four-day layoff gave the Chicago Cubs extra time to hear about the effectiveness of the Cleveland Indians pitching staff.
So when play resumed Tuesday night, the Cubs found a variety of ways to chip away and eventually end the Indians’ 17-game streak of allowing four runs or fewer in a 7-1 victory at Progressive Field.
“We’re pretty aware of it,” Jason Kipnis said of the Indians’ streak before the game.
Jason Heyward delivered the most convincing blow with a three-run home run to cap a five-run sixth inning. Heyward’s four-RBI performance enabled the Cubs and Jon Lester to pull away.
The Cubs (11-3), playing for the first time since Thursday after their weekend series in St. Louis was postponed because of more positive COVID-19 tests by the Cardinals, showed no rust in earning one of their most impressive victories of the season.
Lester, pitching for the first time since Aug. 2, allowed only three hits and used the outside corner of the strike zone with precision through five innings before allowing a run in the sixth.
Lester has allowed seven hits in 17 innings this season as the starters’ ERA dipped to 2.73. This marked the 48th time since 2016 that Lester has thrown at least six innings and allowed one or fewer runs, trailing only Justin Verlander (55) and Jacob deGrom (50) during that span.
The offense, which missed a chance to add more runs after Kipnis doubled to start the third, broke through in the sixth with timely hitting.
Ian Happ beat the shift with a single to the left of second base to extend the Cubs’ lead to 3-0, and Heyward followed by hitting a curve off Phil Maton over the right-field fence.
Happ, whom manager David Ross anointed Sunday as his starting center fielder, is 4 for his last 8. In Happ’s last 22 games dating to Sept. 21, he is batting .385 (25-for-65) with six doubles, eight home runs and 19 RBIs.
Heyward’s 3-for-4 performance snapped an 0-for-7 rut with three strikeouts.
Kyle Schwarber set the tone in the second for the Cubs’ persistent approach by fouling off six consecutive pitches before striking out in an 11-pitch at-bat against Adam Plutko.
Plutko was starting in place of Mike Clevinger, who was placed on the restricted list after violating the Indians’ COVID-19 protocols.
Willson Contreras got a long look at Plutko’s repertoire during Schwarber’s at-bat, and he hit the first pitch for a single and scored on a hit by Heyward.
Before the game, the Indians played a video tribute to Kipnis, who played here for nine seasons. Kipnis showed his appreciation by doffing his cap toward the Indians dugout and to the empty seats.
Kipnis added an insurance run in the seventh when he drew a walk and scored on a wild pitch.
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