CHICAGO (AP) – Nicholas Castellanos homered and drove in four runs, and the Chicago Cubs celebrated the return of Willson Contreras and Ben Zobrist by topping the Seattle Mariners 6-1 on Tuesday night.
Jon Lester (12-9) escaped three bases-loaded jams while working six innings in his second straight win, helping Chicago stay three games back of NL Central-leading St. Louis. The Cubs also remained 2½ games ahead of Philadelphia for the second NL wild card.
Daniel Vogelbach’s pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth accounted for Seattle’s only run in its fourth loss in five games.
Félix Hernández (1-5) lasted just three innings in his third start since coming off the injured list after being sidelined for more than three months with right shoulder stiffness.
The Cubs played without All-Stars Kris Bryant and Javier Báez due to injuries. Bryant was scratched due to right knee soreness, and Báez missed his second straight game with a jammed left thumb.
But they had more than enough against the lowly Mariners, especially with Contreras and Zobrist back in the lineup.
Contreras had been out since he strained his right hamstring during a 4-1 victory over Milwaukee on Aug. 3. The fiery catcher spiked his bat in celebration after he led off the second with a soaring drive into the bleachers in left-center for his 20th homer.
Zobrist reached twice and scored two runs from the leadoff spot in his first major league action since he left the team in May to be with his family while going through a divorce.
Zobrist, who received a standing ovation from the crowd of 33,958 before his first at-bat, led off the fifth with a bunt single. Kyle Schwarber then singled before Castellanos drove Wade LeBlanc’s pitch deep to right, giving the Cubs a 5-0 lead.
Castellanos has 12 homers and 24 RBIs in 31 games since he was acquired in a trade with Detroit on July 31. It was his 23rd homer overall this year.
Schwarber led off the seventh with his team-high 33rd homer, a drive to the back of the bleachers in right. He went 3 for 3 and scored twice.
The Mariners recalled infielder Shed Long and right-hander Zac Grotz from Triple-A Tacoma. Grotz worked the eighth.
The 24-year-old Long, who made his major league debut in May, is considered one of Seattle’s top infield prospects.
“He won’t play every day, but I do want to get him in there,” manager Scott Servais said.
Mariners: C Omar Narváez (back spasms) was out of the starting lineup for the second straight day. … SS J.P. Crawford met with doctors before missing his fourth consecutive game with right hamstring tightness. “It tested out pretty good strength-wise with that hamstring,” Servais said. … OF Mitch Haniger wants to play again this season, but Servais said his lower back is still bothering him. Haniger hurt his back while rehabbing from a ruptured testicle. “It may be a situation where he gets a second opinion and see if there’s something we’re missing,” Servais said.
Cubs: LHP Derek Holland was activated from the 10-day IL. The reliever was sidelined by a bruised left wrist.
Mariners: LHP Marco Gonzales (14-11, 4.30 ERA) starts Thursday night in the opener of a four-game set at AL West-leading Houston. LHP Wade Miley (13-4, 3.06 ERA) gets the ball for the Astros.
Cubs: Following an off day, LHP José Quintana (12-8, 3.90 ERA) and Brewers RHP Chase Anderson (6-4, 4.58 ERA) meet again Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series in Milwaukee. Quintana tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings in the Cubs’ 7-1 victory over Anderson and the Brewers on Friday.