His latest gem just goes to show that Chicago Cubs left-hander Jon Lester has no intentions of ‘going quietly’ over the final few years of his contract.
It’s safe to accurately say that last year wasn’t the best season of Jon Lester’s career. Just one year after finishing second in National League Cy Young voting, the Chicago Cubs southpaw pitched to a 4.33 ERA and 1.310 WHIP in 32 starts.
And, knowing Lester, there was no one more unhappy with his performance than he was. Multiple times, opponents absolutely shellacked him – forcing him out before the third inning even began. He allowed roughly a hit per inning pitched. Simply put, he didn’t look like the Lester who had helped turn around a franchise from Day One.
But this season has been a very different story for the Chicago ace. On Sunday, he twirled seven innings of two-hit ball, striking out seven. With that performance, his earned run average fell to 2.44 as he picked up his sixth win of the year. It also gave the Cubs an always-enjoyable sweep of the Mets.
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New York failed to even record a hit against Lester till the sixth.
"“I had a really good bullpen,” Lester told the Athletic after the game. “I think probably threw like two balls in the whole bullpen. Got out there and just kind of didn’t have my bearings. Something wasn’t right and it took me a little bit, but I was able to settle back in there and get out of that first. That was big. Matz pitched a helluva game. To match him with some zeroes there was big for us.”"
Stability atop the rotation
Having Lester pitch at a high level is critical for a Cubs team in need of consistency atop the rotation. Their big offseason signing, right-hander Yu Darvish, is on the disabled list for the second time in as many months. Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood each had their share of struggles early in the year, although the former seems to be settling in.
The 34-year-old Lester, at least for his part, is doing what he’s always done in his career. Grinding through outings where he doesn’t have his best stuff and keeping the team in pretty much every game. When he’s toed the rubber this year, the Cubs have won nine of 12 contests. You’ll take those odds any day of the week.
This season, he allowed more than three earned runs just two times. On both April 11 and May 29, he allowed four earned – setting a season high. In seven of his 12 outings, he’s pitched at least six frames for Joe Maddon – something that wasn’t always the case last year.
Come October, we all know which Jon Lester shows up. He never backs down from big moments and is ready to battle – no matter what the odds. But having that same gritty determination on display in early June could be a sign of things to come down the stretch as the lefty looks to lead his club to a fourth-consecutive postseason berth.