Game 1 of the National League Division Series was a pitchers duel, but in the end John Lackey came out on top to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 4-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
The Chicago starting pitcher, Jon Lester, gave up a first inning run, but was rock solid until the waning moments later in the game. The first inning run was a single off the bat of Matt Holliday, which drove in Stephen Piscotty to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.
Lester was on fire until he reached the eighth inning. He gave up a pinch-hit solo home run to Thomas Pham and another to Piscotty, a two-run shot.
"Lack made really one more pitch than I did," Lester said. "I know obviously the grand total doesn't show that, but that's kind of the way I feel."
The six-year, $155 million signing for the Cubs this offseason finished with three runs on fives hits and a walk over 7.1 innings pitched. Lester, 31, struck out nine and tossed 115 pitches in the loss.
John Lackey made sure the Cubs did not steal Game 1 of the NLDS as he came through with an outstanding performance. The 36-year-old, who will be a free agent after this season, went 7.1 innings pitched and gave up just two hits and a walk.
"Tonight was special, for sure," Lackey said. "The atmosphere was outstanding, the crowd was really into it, and I knew I'd have to pitch well."
Lackey struck out five and threw 86 pitches in the brilliant outing. It was the best game he has thrown in the last few years of his career, especially when you consider the magnitude of a playoff setting.
"Incredible. I thought his fastball was about as good as we've seen. Period," manager Mike Matheny said. "Anything you wanted to do, he pretty much had it."
The starter gave way to Kevin Siegrist. The reliever got the hold after recording two outs, both strikeouts. Trevor Rosenthal, who made 48 saves in the regular season, gave up a hit and a walk, but struck out all three batters to end the game.
The Cubs quiet offense was led by Kyle Schwarber. The outfielder finished 2-for-3 with a walk. He has continued to show promise this postseason and is becoming a go-to guy for Chicago.
"We could not get anything generated," Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. "They've pitched really well all season, that's a big reason they won 100 games."
As for St. Louis, the offensive came from Stephen Piscotty. The rookie went 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored. He switched it up on defense, playing first base, right field and left field during the win.
St. Louis played catcher Yadier Molina for the first time since September 20th. He went down with a strained left thumb ligament, which kept him out for the remainder of the regular season. The veteran finished 0-for-3, but looked healthy.
"You can tell he's been anxious to get in there," Matheny said. "The way he moved behind the plate, the way he and John were working, he is so valuable to our club in so many ways."
The Cardinals and Cubs face off for Game 2 of the NLDS at 5:30 PM ET on Saturday. It will be Kyle Hendricks, 25, getting the start for Chicago. Meanwhile, Jamie Garcia, 29, will toe the slab for St. Louis.