The Chicago Cubs need ‘good’ Jon Lester to make his return

(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

It’s been the M.O. for the Chicago Cubs Jon Lester. He has a stretch of spectacular outings, followed by a few he’d rather forget. After two that fall under the latter is Lester ready for a great game?

There’s no question that Jon Lester is the Chicago Cubs ace. And sometimes, even good teams need their ace to stop the bleeding. In his last two starts, he hasn’t been able to do that–even adding to it. Tonight, the Cubs will need Lester to return to All-Star form to end the two-game skid and the last four out of five.

After a stretch of five games that saw Lester go 26 1/3 innings allowing just one earned run while striking out 29 and walking three with a sterling 0.36 ERA, the last two have been less than stellar. In his last two starts, Lester allowed 12 runs (9 ER) in just 8 1/3 innings. How good has he been prior to these last two? His ERA rose to 2.68 after two games that he failed to pitch five while allowing five and four, respectively. It was 1.16 entering the May 18 game against the Washington Nationals.

Those numbers were unsustainable. And this isn’t new for Lester. Even in 2016 and 2018, when he won 19 and 18 games, respectively, he had these bad streaks. In 2016, in a span of four starts from July 3 to July 24, he allowed 18 ER in 16 innings pitched for a 10.13 ERA in those games. In 2018, it was a five-game stretch from July 20 to August 11 that saw him go 0-3 allowing 26 ER in 22 1/3 innings with a 10.32 ERA. Each time, Lester has worked his way out of it. And each time he’s taken full responsibility for it.

He’s already taken the blame for his last two starts. Now it’s time to fix it. The Cubs starters haven’t been as reliable as they were while they were going 20-5 and going from worst to first in the Central.

The issue has been Lester’s cutter. In his last two starts, he’s thrown 70 of them, and they’ve been walloped. He’s seen his BIP% on his cutter jump from 15.97 to 18.57. And his LD% rise from 3.36 to 5.71. His home run rate has also jumped from 0.84 to 1.83. (Comparing his previous 2019 numbers to his last two starts.)

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This is Lester’s go-to pitch, so he has to figure out what’s going on and get it rectified. The Chicago  Cubs haven’t been able to find a stopper in Jose Quintana or Cole Hamels–although the offense almost found a way to win it Monday.

Nope. This is going to need ‘good’ Lester to help stop the losing streak. The bullpen could use a break, as well. To be honest, the team needs a reset right now.