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Jon Lester homers, pitches Cubs to victory

Jon Lester homered, tied a career high with three RBIs and pitched effectively into the seventh inning to lead the host Chicago Cubs to a 10-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

All-Star catcher Willson Contreras’ three-run homer and Lester’s two-run single off the leftfield wall were the big hits in the Cubs’ seven-run first inning. In the third, the 35-year-old lefthander connected for his third career home run at Wrigley Field for the NL Central leaders.

“I think this is the best version of Jon that I’ve seen as a total athlete, a pitcher,” manager Joe Maddon said. “You talk about his hitting also if you want, everything about his performance.”

Lester (9-6) allowed three runs and eight hits, and struck out six in 6 2/3 innings.

“The last I don’t know how many outings I’ve felt better about my stuff and where I’ve been at,” Lester said. “Hopefully I can kind of ride that momentum as we go forward in the second half and down the stretch.”

After spending his first nine seasons in the American League, Lester has embraced hitting in this last five with the Cubs.

“I take a little more pride in that since I’ve been over here,” he said. “Just trying to get quality at-bats and see some pitches.”

Addison Russell drove in two runs as the Cubs won for the fourth time in five games.

Orioles 2, Rays 1: Less than 24 hours after pitching in a mop-up role, Stevie Wilkerson hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning to back a surprisingly effective performance by Baltimore’s pitching staff, and the host Orioles won the opener of a split doubleheader.

One night after yielding 20 hits to the Rays, the Orioles permitted only three hits — all in the third inning. The Orioles came in with a major league-high 5.69 ERA and the worst record in the big leagues.

The loss ended the Rays three-game winning streak.

Getting a jump on the July 31 trade deadline, the Orioles sent righthander Andrew Cashner to the Red Sox for two 17-year-old prospects.

The deal was announced Saturday after the first game.

Cashner is 9-3 with a 3.83 ERA in 17 starts for the team with the worst record in the majors. He has gone at least six innings in his last five starts and has a 1.41 ERA since the start of June.

A’s 13, White Sox 2: Franklin Barreto hit a three-run home run to cap a seven-run first inning for host Oakland.

Matt Chapman had three hits and scored twice for the A’s, who have won nine of 11. Marcus Semien added two hits and Robbie Grossman drove in three runs.

Chris Bassitt (6-4) pitched six scoreless innings and struck out six.

Scherzer placed on IL

The Washington Nationals have put Max Scherzer on the 10-day injury list because the ace righthander has a mid-back strain.

An MRI on Scherzer’s back came back negative, and the three-time Cy Young Award winner had his start pushed back from Sunday to Tuesday. But he was placed on the injury list retroactive to July 10 after throwing a bullpen session before Saturday’s game.

Catcher Spencer Kieboom was recalled from Double-A Harrisburg to take Scherzer’s roster spot.

Scherzer was 7-0 with a 0.84 ERA in his last nine starts before the All-Star break. In all, he is 9-5 with a 2.30 ERA.

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