The Chicago Cubs needed Jon Lester to come through on Sunday. Instead, he fell apart in a critical game against the rival Milwaukee Brewers.
Sunday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers was a game that the Chicago Cubs needed to have. They simply could not lose three of four to the Brewers, one of several teams they are battling for a playoff spot. They had their ace Jon Lester on the mound, who’s come through for them many times over the past few years. Lester could have led the Cubs towards a big step forward in their quest to make the postseason.
Instead, Lester failed miserably. His subpar season continued as he allowed eight runs in 5 1/3 innings as the Cubs fell to the Brewers, 8-5. Lester now has a 4.51 ERA on the season.
The game got off to a bad start for Lester, as the Brewers loaded the bases with nobody out. But Lester got Ryan Braun to ground into a double play on his way to escaping with only one run allowed, and after putting up two zeroes after that, it looked like Lester may be on his way to a good day. Instead, the Brewers suddenly rallied for five runs in the fourth, capped by a three-run pinch-hit home run from Tyler Austin.
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Before that Austin home run, Lester was upset with home plate umpire Will Little’s strike zone while he was facing the previous hitter, David Freitas, who would walk. Lester showed a lot of displeasure, but in that situation, he has to be able to keep his cool, and he failed to do that.
In fairness, it wasn’t just Lester; the Cubs’ offense continued its struggles as well. They had Brewers starter Adrian Houser on the ropes when they put together a three-run rally in the third inning, which did include a run-scoring hit from Lester. The heart of the order failed to drive Ben Zobrist in after he made it to second with nobody out, including strikeouts from two of the Cubs’ hottest hitters, Kyle Schwarber and Nicholas Castellanos.
After Houser left after four the Cubs’ offense went to sleep until Jason Heyward hit a meaningless two-run homer in the ninth. As if that weren’t bad enough, that third inning rally included Addison Russell getting hit in the head with a pitch. He would stay in the game and score but eventually left. If Russell has to miss any time, it’s the last thing the Cubs need with their regular shortstop Javier Baez likely out for the year and no other clear options available.
Also, notably absent from the Cubs’ lineup was Kris Bryant, who was nursing a sore knee. I found it interesting that the Cubs’ announcers were talking about the injuries the Brewers are dealing with and how those players were still in the game today, including Lorenzo Cain, who was also dealing with a sore knee. Now, if a player is injured, I don’t want to criticize them for not playing. That being said, it’s a shame that Bryant couldn’t go on Sunday. I hope Joe Maddon didn’t keep Bryant out of the lineup this time of year unless it was necessary.
With the Cardinals winning, if there was one piece of good news for the Cubs on Sunday, it was that the Diamondbacks, the Cubs’ closest Wild Card competitor, lost to the Reds. With three weeks to go, the lead for the last playoff spot remains at 1.5 games.
Still, the bottom line is that Lester is supposed to be the ace of this staff, and more times than not, he has failed to come through this season. It’s one of the most important reasons why this team is in grave danger of missing the playoffs.