CHICAGO — When Anthony Rizzo found out the eight-year anniversary of him being declared cancer-free fell on the same day fellow cancer survivor Jon Lester was pitching, he told Lester he was going to throw a no-hitter.
He came close.
Lester pitched 6 2/3 innings of no-hit ball and settled for his second complete game of the season, helping the Chicago Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants 2-1 on Friday to move a season-high 40 games over .500.
It coincided with a Major League Baseball initiative that had players and umpires wearing gold sweatbands to raise awareness for childhood cancer.
“It’s a little more special for me and Rizz, just with our foundations and what we’ve been through,” said Lester, who overcame lymphoma a decade ago. “He did say the other day I was going to throw a no-hitter on the kids’ strike out cancer day. It would have been pretty cool, but glad we got the win instead.”
Hunter Pence ended Lester’s bid for a second no-hitter with a homer to left on a 1-2 changeup that cut over the plate. Brandon Crawford followed with a double, and Lester (15-4) got Eduardo Nunez to line to third. He then worked around Trevor Brown’s one-out double in the eighth.
“We ran into a very hot pitcher who’s throwing the ball very well and he was on top of his game,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Still, you’ve got to generate some offense.
“I will say we hit some balls had right at them, too. We could’ve used a break on Nunez’s ball. He just hit it right at him or right there the game is tied.”
Lester allowed three hits and walked two. The Cubs have won five straight to improve to 87-47. The last time they were 40 games over .500 was the end of the 1945 season.
“It’s pretty incredible,” manager Joe Maddon.
David Ross and Dexter Fowler had RBI hits in the second off Albert Suarez (3-3).
Pence’s second homer in two days ended a 12 2/3-innings hitless streak (0 for 40) for San Francisco. The Giants are a major league-worst 15-29 since the All-Star break.
Lester walked Buster Posey with two outs in the first inning and followed by setting down 18 straight while getting some help.
Third baseman Kris Bryant made a diving, backhand grab of Crawford’s liner to lead off the fifth and Dexter Fowler made a sliding catch of Kelby Tomlinson’s liner to center an inning later.
“Our defense has been fun to watch all year, and it makes our jobs a lot easier,” Lester said.
The 32-year-old Lester threw a no-hitter on May 19, 2008, for Boston against Kansas City. That came less than two years after he was diagnosed with cancer.
He acknowledged he started thinking about a second one after the first inning and added, “Anybody that tells you different is lying.”
The rookie Suarez, in his ninth start, allowed three hits with two walks and three strikeouts in five innings.
Lester struck out Crawford looking with a runner on first for his fourth strikeout to end it on his 102nd pitch.
“I think the big thing was they were aggressive,” Lester said. “I was able to keep the ball down and keep the defense active today.”
Giants: C Trevor Brown (illness) started after being unavailable Thursday, allowing Posey to play 1B. Brown tested negative for strep throat … RHP Matt Cain (back) was activated off the disabled list and became the 12th reliever thanks to expanded rosters.
Cubs: RHP John Lackey (shoulder) came out fine after a bullpen session and will start Sunday. … Reliever Pedro Strop (knee) vowed to be back in mid-September after a setback with a strained groin during his rehab. … RHP Hector Rondon (triceps) is set to pitch Saturday and Monday for Triple-A Iowa.
Rizzo reflected on beating Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”Obviously come a long way,” he said. “Done a lot of good things on the baseball field, but way more better things off the field.” Rizzo’s foundation has raised about $2 million to support families of children with cancer and cancer research.
A showdown of stars Saturday as Cubs RHP Jake Arrieta (16-5, 2.84 ERA) faces LHP Madison Bumgarner (13-8, 2.49). “It’ll be an interesting day, no question,” Maddon said.