CHICAGO (AP) — John Lackey hit four batters, including three in one inning. Carlos Rodon matched a career high with 11 strikeouts, and was gone after four innings. Javier Baez struck out five times, and Kris Bryant was handed his first career ejection.
On a very strange day, Willson Contreras delivered — again.
Contreras drove in four runs and Carl Edwards Jr. provided some timely relief, helping the Chicago Cubs beat the Chicago White Sox 7-2 on Tuesday.
Ben Zobrist reached four times from the leadoff spot as the North Siders won for the ninth time in 11 games since the All-Star break. Lackey (7-9) became the first Cubs pitcher to plunk four guys since Moe Drabowsky on June 2, 1957, at Cincinnati, but managed to get into the sixth inning for his second straight victory.
“It was a day of awkward record-making or breaking today,” manager Joe Maddon said.
The AL-worst White Sox were unable to overcome a strange performance by Rodon (1-4) in their 10th loss in 11 games. The left-hander struck out the side three times and smacked a two-run double for his first career hit, but struggled with his command in his third straight loss.
“I’d probably trade those 11 strikeouts in for six or seven innings,” he said. “Just not tax the bullpen and go out there and go that long.”
Contreras helped the Cubs get off to a fast start with a three-run drive onto Waveland Avenue for his 16th homer in the first. He singled in the third and drove in Jon Jay with another base hit in Chicago’s two-run sixth.
Contreras’ three-hit day was a nice rebound performance after he struck out looking with two runners on for the final out in the Cubs’ 3-1 loss in the series opener on Monday. He is batting .347 (25 for 72) with seven homers and 18 RBIs in 18 July games.
“Just trying to do simple better like Maddon says,” a grinning Contreras said.
The Cubs carried a 4-2 lead into the sixth, but Lackey was pulled after the White Sox put runners on second and third with no outs.
Edwards came in and struck out Tyler Saladino before making an athletic play on Melky Cabrera’s comebacker for the second out. With the Wrigley Field crowd of 40,717 standing and cheering, Edwards then struck out Jose Abreu to end the inning.
The wiry reliever held his arms out and yelled as he left the mound after escaping the jam.
“That’s the game-changer,” Maddon said. “That was the linchpin to victory right there.”
Omar Narvaez went 2 for 2 with two walks for the White Sox, who went 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position. Rodon, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft, was charged with four runs and seven hits.
“Today they were able to drive in some runs in a timely fashion,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Today we had some opportunities and just weren’t able to get them in.”
Both benches were warned by home plate umpire Lance Barksdale after White Sox reliever Chris Beck plunked Ian Happ in the fifth. Lackey hit three batters in the top half of the inning, including Abreu for the second time, but Tim Anderson bounced into a fielder’s choice for the final out.
“I wasn’t trying to hit anybody, but I totally get the other side, too,” Lackey said. “Tell Happy, my bad, apologize for that, have to buy him something nice for getting hit. But the game polices itself. Whether I intentionally did it or not, I get it on the other side. You’ve got to take care of your guys too.”
Bryant was shaken up after he fouled a ball off his right knee in the fourth. The star third baseman for the Cubs stayed in the game, looked at a called third strike and then was ejected for arguing with Barksdale. He went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts.
“Sometimes there’s borderline pitches that are really hard to call,” Bryant said. “That one I knew for a fact and I had to do it, I had to stick up for myself.”
The five strikeouts for Baez were a career high. The Cubs struck out 17 times overall, their most in a nine-inning game this season.
White Sox: 2B Yoan Moncada was visited by a trainer after he was hit on his right wrist by a pitch in the fifth inning. But he stayed in the game.
The home-and-home series moves to the South Side for the next two games. Cubs RHP Jake Arrieta (9-7, 4.11 ERA) faces White Sox RHP James Shields (2-2, 5.79 ERA) on Wednesday night. Arrieta is 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA in four July starts. Shields is winless over his last three outings with a 9.60 ERA.