Cubs and Jon Lester confident he has righted the ship
Ian Happ went up to Jon Lester after his start against the Cardinals on Sept. 6 looking to deliver a simple, yet uplifting, message. Lester had just labored through a loss where he’d allowed 5 runs in 3.1 innings of work
“The last few years he’s always had a little stretch there in the middle where he gets hit around a little bit,” Happ told the veteran southpaw. “I said it’s just magnified this year. Next few you’re gonna be lights out just like normal Jonny.”
Happ was right.
Lester returned to his vintage ways in his next start on Sept. 11, pitching 6 innings of shutout ball, striking out 6 and allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks in the process. The Cubs are hopeful he will carry over his performance in Milwaukee over his final couple outings of the season.
The adjustments he made in that last start give Lester confidence he can continue down the right path.
“We really dove into some stuff over the last week. I feel like we made some adjustments; I mean obviously the results were good [Friday],” Lester said after the start. “I don’t wanna say we reinvented the wheel and found some magical cure or anything but the adjustments that we did make in my bullpen were — the stuff just translated better.”
He appreciates the technology and data at his disposal to analyze each and every one of his outings but knows that isn’t a guarantee for success. The numbers can tell you one thing, but it’s still on Lester to execute.
“Technology’s so great but at the same time, maybe you can almost dive too much into it,” Lester said. “We kind of found some stuff that was putting me in bad positions especially on my cutter. We were able to adjust that and like I said, the results were good [Friday] and now I just need to carry it over to the next one.”
If he’s able to continue to pitch at that level, it gives the Cubs a strong, three-headed monster at the top of their rotation with Cy Young-candidate Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks. Couple that with Alec Mills coming off a no-hitter and being named NL Player of the Week and it’s making the Cubs’ rotation a real strong suit, especially given Lester’s October pedigree. The veteran lefty has a career 2.51 ERA and a 1.019 WHIP in 26 postseason games.
He showed that moxie to be back to that level in the 5th inning of Friday’s game. With runners on first and third and one out in a scoreless game, Willson Contreras nabbed Avisaíl García stealing second and Lester proceeded to strike out Keston Hiura to escape the jam. He let out a fist pump in celebration of the big out.
That was the type of performance that gives Happ and the Cubs the belief that Lester is ready for another postseason run.
“I respect that he’s been around the game for a long time and when he shows emotion it’s always in the right spot,” Happ said. “Especially in September, to see him show emotion it gets you fired up for what you’re gonna see in October outta that guy.”