Jon Lester struggles in return to Wrigley Field, Kyle Schwarber goes deep vs. Cubs

Monday night was reunion night at Wrigley Field. Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber, two key members of the Chicago’s 2016 World Series team, returned to Wrigley for the first time since leaving the Cubs as free agents this past offseason. Lester and Schwarber both signed one-year contracts with the Washington Nationals.

“I knew as soon as I signed and saw the schedule,” Lester told reporters about his return to Wrigley Field. “You pick out certain road trips that are always fun, and obviously that was one that stuck out for me, for a lot of different reasons.”  

Prior to Monday’s game (CHC 7, WAS 3), the Cubs of course played tribute videos for both Lester and Schwarber on the scoreboard, and the fans gave them ovations throughout the game. Lester was cheered when he took the mound for the bottom of the first inning and Schwarber was cheered when he came to the plate for his first at-bat.

The home team gave fans plenty to cheer while Lester was on the mound. The Cubs jumped him for five runs in 5 1/3 innings, including home runs by Jason Heyward, Willson Contreras, and Javier Báez. Lester allowed four runs total in his first four starts of the season before giving up five runs in his return to Wrigley Field.

“It was really strange,” Contreras told reporters, including Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald, about facing his former batterymate. “I wanted to laugh, I wanted to smile, but it was super serious. I know he’s a gamer. It feels strange facing him. Now that he’s on another team, I wish him the best. We’re still really close.”  

As for Schwarber, he went deep in his return to the North Side, clobbering a two-run home run off former teammate Adbert Alzolay in the fourth inning. It was Schwarber’s sixth home run of the season and his 60th at Wrigley Field. He went 1 for 3 with the home run, a walk, and a strikeout.

“It was weird seeing Murphy’s when you come in on that (visitors’) side, I guess,” Schwarber told McGraw. “It was nice to be able to walk in here, obviously a lot of great memories. I think it’s the same as we left it last time we were here.” 

Lester, now 37, signed a six-year contract worth $155 million with Chicago in December 2014. In six years with the Cubs, Lester went 77-44 with a 3.64 ERA in 1,002 2/3 innings. He went to two All-Star Games as a Cub, was the NL Cy Young runner-up in 2016, and he pitched to a 2.02 ERA in 35 2/3 postseason innings during Chicago’s run to the 2016 championship.

The 28-year-old Schwarber joined the Cubs as the No. 4 pick in the 2014 amateur draft. He made his big league debut the next year and hit .230/.336/.480 with 121 home runs in 511 games with Chicago. Schwarber missed most of 2016 with a torn ACL, but returned in time to go 7 for 17 in the World Series. The Cubs non-tendered Schwarber in December.

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