CHICAGO (AP) — Ben Zobrist went 4 for 4, Addison Russell had three RBIs and the Chicago Cubs beat the San Diego Padres 8-7 on Tuesday night for their eighth straight win.
Jon Lester (4-1) pitched six innings of three-run ball as Chicago improved to 25-6 for the best start by a major league team since the 1984 Detroit Tigers won 26 of their first 31 games. Kris Bryant drove in two runs and Jason Heyward scored twice, helping the Cubs open an 8 1/2-game lead over second-place Pittsburgh in the NL Central.
Zobrist had run-scoring singles in the third and fourth against rookie Cesar Vargas (0-2). Zobrist also singled in the second and seventh, and scored in each inning on a hit by Russell.
Zobrist, a switch-hitter who signed a $56 million, four-year contract with Chicago as a free agent, is batting .365 (23 for 63) with 23 RBIs in his last 18 games. He has driven in 17 runs during Chicago's win streak.
Alex Dickerson became the first player in Padres history with a pinch-hit grand slam for his first career homer, according to STATS, but San Diego lost its third consecutive game. Melvin Upton Jr. also went deep for the Padres, and Jose Pirela had two hits and scored two runs.
San Diego lost another infielder when shortstop Alexei Ramirez left in the fifth inning due to cramping in his left hamstring. After hustling into second with a run-scoring double, Ramirez was hunched over behind the bag when a trainer came out to check on him.
Ramirez motioned to his hamstring and walked off the field under his own power after a short discussion. The Padres had nine players on the disabled list coming into the day, including four infielders.
Dickerson's drive on 0-2 pitch from Adam Warren trimmed Chicago's lead to 8-7 with two outs in the eighth. But Jon Jay bounced to second to end the inning, and Hector Rondon got three outs for his seventh save in seven chances.
The Padres claimed left-hander Keith Hessler off waivers from the Diamondbacks. Manager Andy Green said Hessler could be added to the roster as the 26th player for Wednesday's doubleheader against the Cubs.
Green, a former Arizona coach, saw Hessler transition from starter to reliever after he signed as an amateur free agent in 2011 out of Coastal Carolina. Hessler has an 8.22 ERA in 20 big league appearances over two seasons.
Padres: LHP Matt Thornton (Achilles) is scheduled to throw a live batting practice session Wednesday in Arizona. ... 2B Jemile Weeks (hamstring) was scheduled for an MRI on Tuesday. He was placed on the disabled list Sunday. ... 2B Cory Spangenberg (quadriceps) remains in San Diego doing underwater running and other rehab activities.
Cubs: C Miguel Montero (lower back tightness) began a rehab stint with Triple-A Iowa. The length of his rehab period depends on how he feels, according to manager Joe Maddon. "He hasn't been too far removed that he should be far off," Maddon said. "Whatever his body tells him, we'll follow that direction."
The Cubs and Padres make up Monday's rainout when they play a day-night doubleheader on Wednesday. RHPs Kyle Hendricks (2-2, 3.10 ERA) and John Lackey (4-1, 4.02 ERA) go for Chicago, and San Diego sends RHP Colin Rea (3-1, 3.82 ERA) and LHP Drew Pomeranz (3-3, 2.12 ERA) to the mound. The Cubs haven't won a home series against San Diego since they swept a three-game set in 2012.