Lester helps Cubs beat Mets 7-4 for 6th straight winChicago Cubs' Jon Lester watches his two RBI-single during the third inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets on Monday, Aug. 27, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
CHICAGO (AP) -- Jon Lester got it done with his arm, glove and bat.
Even teammate Anthony Rizzo was impressed.
''He's a good athlete, he really is,'' a grinning Rizzo said. ''I don't say that too much about pitchers.''
Lester worked six innings, drove in two runs with a timely single off Noah Syndergaard and made two nice plays in the field, helping the Chicago Cubs beat the New York Mets 7-4 on Monday night for their sixth consecutive victory.
Rizzo homered and Daniel Murphy reached three more times from the leadoff spot as Chicago moved a season-high 24 games over .500 with its eighth straight win against New York dating to last season. Murphy, who began his career with the Mets, is batting .407 (11 for 27) in six games since he was acquired in a trade with Washington.
The Cubs (77-53) piled up 14 hits while increasing their NL Central lead to 4 1/2 games over idle St. Louis.
''I thought we really looked good at the plate,'' manager Joe Maddon said. ''We weren't trying to do too much in general. We moved the baseball when we needed to. Those are the kinds of things we need to do from now until the end of the year and through the playoffs.''
Lester was in line for his 15th win before Kevin Plawecki hit a solo homer off Steve Cishek (4-1) in the seventh, tying it at 4 on a warm and windy night at Wrigley Field. But the Cubs went ahead to stay with two runs in the bottom half, including Ben Zobrist's tiebreaking double off Jerry Blevins (1-2).
New York loaded the bases in the ninth before Jesse Chavez struck out Amed Rosario and Austin Jackson for his third save of the season.
Michael Conforto also homered for New York, which had won four of six. Syndergaard allowed four runs and nine hits, struck out six and walked three in six innings.
''I saw a lot of balls kind of up and over the middle of the plate,'' Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. ''He usually does a good job keeping the ball down. This was more mistakes than I usually see in the middle of the plate, and they made him pay for it.''
Lester was hit hard early on, including Conforto's massive leadoff drive in the second - a projected 472 feet to the bleachers above the batter's eye in center field. Rosario made it 3-1 with a two-out RBI single, but the Mets lost out on a chance for more when Wilmer Flores popped up with the bases loaded.
The Cubs responded with three runs in the third, capped by Lester's big hit. Syndergaard issued an intentional walk to Kyle Schwarber with two outs, loading the bases, but Lester wrecked the Mets' strategy by dumping a two-run single into left-center.
''It wasn't a good pitch,'' Syndergaard said. ''It was a sinker that just kind of floated over the middle.''
Lester said he got lucky.
''Guy throws really hard. I'm trying to just hit the ball somewhere,'' he said.
Lester also helped himself in the field. The left-hander, who has had trouble throwing to bases, picked off Rosario after he reached on third baseman David Bote's error in the fifth. He also speared Jose Reyes' line drive for the final out of his outing.
Mets outfielder Jose Bautista went 0 for 3 with a walk in what might have been his final game with the club. The veteran slugger was reportedly claimed off waivers by Philadelphia, and the sides were working on a trade.
''I'm still here,'' Bautista said as he left the clubhouse. ''If that changes, I'll talk about it. Right now, there's nothing else for me to say.''
Mets: OF Brandon Nimmo (bruised left index finger) will be activated from the disabled list Tuesday, according to Callaway. ... 3B David Wright, who hasn't appeared in the majors since May 2016 because of back and shoulder injuries, was off for the second straight day as he continues his rehab stint with Class A St. Lucie. ''He just didn't feel comfortable playing three in a row at this point, so he's going get a couple days off and we're going to evaluate where he's at physically,'' Callaway said. ... 2B Jeff McNeil flied out as a pinch hitter in the seventh after leaving Sunday's 15-0 loss to Washington because of tightness in his right quadriceps.
Cubs: 3B Kris Bryant (left shoulder inflammation) and RHP Tyler Chatwood (left hip tightness) each made their first rehab appearance with Triple-A Iowa. Bryant went 0 for 3 and scored twice while serving as the designated hitter. Chatwood walked five in 4 1/3 innings against Omaha, yielding two runs and three hits.
Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom (8-8, 1.71 ERA) and Cubs left-hander Cole Hamels (9-9, 3.82 ERA) square off Tuesday night in a matchup between two of baseball's hottest pitchers. DeGrom, one of the leading contenders for the NL Cy Young Award, has a 1.26 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings over five August starts. Hamels is 4-0 with a sparkling 0.79 ERA in five starts since he was acquired in a July 27 trade with Texas.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap
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