No one will remember Jon Lester’s outing on Saturday – a Chicago Cubs loss – but he stepped up and delivered a gritty, hard-nosed effort on the bump.
When the Chicago Cubs went out and inked Jon Lester to a record contract ahead of the 2015 campaign, they knew what they were getting – a two-time World Series champion who stepped up in the big moments and pitched best on the game’s biggest stage.
And while a late July game might not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, given how tight the National League Central is and the new-age rivalry between the Cubs and the reigning division champion Milwaukee Brewers, Saturday’s contest wasn’t ‘just another’ game.
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After being scratched earlier in the week due to illness, Lester got the ball against Milwaukee, looking to help his team put Friday’s tough series-opening loss behind them. Chicago may have fallen short in that effort, but it was through no fault of their burly left-hander.
Lester dominated, twirling seven shutout innings in front of a packed Miller Park crowd, scattering four base hits and striking out five. You couldn’t ask for more on a night where the Cubs desperately sought to rewrite the narrative of the series.
But, as we all know, the game went horribly awry late – eventually ending with Milwaukee walking off in extra innings against closer Craig Kimbrel. Per usual, though, Lester was shooting straight after the loss.
"“Tonight was obviously very tough,” Lester told The Athletic after the game (subscription required). “I felt like we were in pretty good control of that game. That’s how quick things can turn around. Especially here against these guys. They play very well at home. As do we, but I just feel like when they’re here, they’re kinda even more on point than when they go other places. Unfortunately, it just sucks tonight.”"
That about sums it up. As tough a pill as it is to swallow, there’s nothing the Cubs can do except get after it Sunday and focus on the task at hand (three games in St. Louis and then another series against Milwaukee at home).
And while he may have lost a step from his prime, Lester will be ready when his number is called. He’s the Cubs’ no-doubt stopper, their experienced hand on the tiller and ace of the rotation. When the pressure is on, you know what you’re going to get from the southpaw: a vintage performance.