PHOENIX -AP- John Lackey has won five starts in a row for the first time in nine years, though his latest outing ended a bit early for his liking.
The veteran right-hander was lifted after 5 1/3 innings and just 85 pitches in the Chicago Cubs' 8-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.
And he obviously wasn't happy when manager Joe Maddon went to the mound to pull him.
"I've been throwing the ball better than to be going five innings," Lackey said afterward.
Maddon said he knew Lackey wouldn't like it.
"Listen, he did his job. He had great stuff," Maddon said. "My message to him is primarily by not throwing too many pitches now he's going to be strong the rest of the year."
Even Lackey, at age 38, can somewhat see the manager's reasoning.
"I'm definitely not getting any younger," he said. "I get that he's trying to save me to be strong towards the end. There's definitely an argument for that."
It was a resounding victory for a Cubs team that found out earlier in the day that it was losing Willson Contreras for several weeks with a hamstring injury.
"It was a nice first step," Maddon said.
Kyle Schwarber and the man replacing Contreras at catcher, Alex Avila, hit consecutive home runs off Taijuan Walker (6-6) to start the sixth inning after David Peralta's two-run shot had cut the Cubs' lead to 3-2 in the fifth.
Paul Goldschmidt's solo homer with one out in the sixth ended Lackey's night. Lackey (10-9) allowed three runs on four hits, struck out seven and walked three.
He has won five in a row for the third time in his career but first since June 6-29, 2008.
"I've been throwing the ball pretty good," Lackey said. "We've scored some runs, too. That helps. I think the rest was definitely good for me with the All-Star break and got a little extra time."
Walker went five innings plus two batters, giving up five runs, four earned, to fall to 0-3 in his last eight starts.
The Cubs, who lost two of three at home to the Diamondbacks just over a week ago, won for just their third time in nine games to stay a game up on St. Louis in the NL Central. The Diamondbacks have lost five of six and are 1/3 halfway through an eight-game homestand against the Dodgers, Cubs and Houston. Arizona's lead over St. Louis for the NL's second wild-card spot is down to 4 1/2 games.
Walker walked Avila on four pitches with the bases loaded and two outs to bring in the initial Cubs run in the first. Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 when he scored from third after Walker crossed up catcher Chris Herrmann with a curveball for a passed ball.
In the second, after two outs, Jon Jay was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on Kris Bryant's single to boost Chicago's lead to 3-0.
Lackey retired eight in a row before Herrmann reached on his second infield single. After Walker failed to get a bunt down, Peralta lashed Lackey's 0-1 pitch into the right field seats to cut the lead to 3-2.
Even though Walker had thrown 100 pitches and three left-handed batters were coming to the plate, Arizona manager Torey Lovullo put the right-hander back on the mound to start the sixth. Schwarber and Avila responded with home runs, both on 1-2 pitches, and Chicago led 5-2.
"I know they weren't favorable matches but he has stuff that can handle lefties and righties," Lovullo explained. "I felt that in that part of the order he could make pitches and get through that inning. It didn't happen and that was the big difference in the game."
 

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