HOUSTON — Kris Bryant gave the Houston Astros an up-close look at what could have been.
Bryant hit a two-run homer, Jon Lester threw seven scoreless innings and Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman completed the shutout to give the Chicago Cubs a 2-0 win over the Astros on Friday night.
It was Bryant’s first career game against the team that passed on him with the first pick in the 2013 draft to take starter Mark Appel, who was traded to Philadelphia this offseason before ever playing in the majors. Before the game Chicago manager Joe Maddon had a simple answer when he was asked about Houston’s decision not to draft Bryant.
“Thank you,” Maddon said with a smile.
Bryant seemed to have grown weary of all the rehashing of that draft in the last few days, but seemed amused when he was asked if he likes hitting in Houston.
“Yeah, (batting practice) was fun for sure,” he said. “Just don’t hit it to center.”
Bryant, taken second in that draft, avoided Houston’s deep center field and smacked his 37th homer off Joe Musgrove (2-4) to the short porch in left field to put the Cubs up 2-0 in the fifth inning.
Lester (16-4) allowed seven hits and struck out seven for his seventh straight win. He hasn’t lost since July 3, hasn’t allowed a run in three of those starts and gave up just one run in four others in that span.
Rondon took over for the eighth and struck out two before Aroldis Chapman struck out one in a perfect ninth for his 13th save.
The victory improved the Cubs to an MLB-best 90-50 a year after they won 97 games to give them consecutive 90-win seasons for the first time since doing it in three straight years from 1928-1930.
The Astros had trouble stringing hits together against Lester, and didn’t have more than one in an inning until the seventh when Yulieski Gurriel singled with one out and Marwin Gonzalez got another single with two outs. But Lester struck out Colby Rasmus looking to end the threat.
“Felt like that was the real big turning point in the game,” Lester said. “I felt like if we give up a hit there the momentum goes back on their side and it seems like they’re kind of built on that.”
Musgrove allowed three hits and two runs with five strikeouts in six innings for his fourth loss in five starts.
Manager A.J. Hinch was disappointed that Musgrove walked Dexter Fowler with two outs to set up Bryant’s homer.
“I’m happy with his effort, and obviously, he’ll go home thinking about the walk to Fowler before Bryant’s big home run because that really was the only thing they got off of him,” Hinch said.
Fowler snapped an 0-for-19 skid with a leadoff triple. But Musgrove didn’t allow another hit until Bryant’s homer with two outs in the fifth.
Alex Bregman singled for Houston with no outs in the fourth inning and stole second base. But he was thrown out trying to swipe third, too, and the Astros lost a scoring opportunity.
THAT HAD TO HURT
Play was stopped for a couple of minutes in the bottom of the sixth inning when home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor got hit on hit on his right shoulder with a foul ball from Teoscar Hernandez. Bucknor was shaken up after taking the hit and was checked on by a member of Houston’s training staff. But the trainer soon left and he rubbed on his shoulder a couple of times before remaining in the game.
Astros: SS Carlos Correa missed his third straight game on Friday with inflammation in his left shoulder. Correa said that he was feeling better on Friday and manager Hinch said they hoped to get him back sometime this weekend. … Ace Dallas Keuchel, who is also out with inflammation in his left shoulder, won’t throw until after Sunday. Keuchel was shut down on Monday because of the problem and said on Friday that he is feeling better, but is still struggling with the injury. “There’s really no timetable set for return,” he said. “But I firmly believe we’re still going to be in the playoff hunt so hopefully I can help the guys out here in the next week or so.”
Cubs: John Lackey (9-7, 3.36) is scheduled to make his second start since coming off the disabled list. He is 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA in his last five starts.
Astros: Collin McHugh (9-10, 4.96) has won two straight decisions and the Astros have won the last four games that he started.