Jon Lester was given every opportunity to implode on Sunday night. A 15 mile per hour wind blew in from the north all night, though as Kyle Schwarber can attest to, it was whipping in all sorts of directions. A steady rain on an already-cold night started around the third inning and didn’t relent. Two of the Brewers’ nine hits failed to get past the pitchers mound. The ingredients for an ugly night were all there.
Instead, Lester continued to solidify his Big Game reputation, pitching 6.2 innings without allowing an earned run and striking out six. He’s now gone a career-high three straight games without allowing an earned run; his 1.16 ERA is the lowest of any starter who’s made at least seven starts, per team notes. He now has a 0.46 ERA at Wrigley.
“He kept battling through it,” manager Joe Maddon said after the game. “He’s been so good at pitching through adversity, making pitches when he needs to. He’s really slowed the game down as well as you possibly can.”
Maddon admitted pregame that, coming off Saturday’s 15-inning affair, Lester would have a longer leash than usual. He ended up throwing 116 pitches, the highest number he’s touched all season. His 74 strikes were also a season-best.
“It’s the same mindset - every time my day comes I want to finish my game,” Lester said. “Obviously that’s not always the case, but I was able to get us into the 7th.
“I was just trying to get us quick outs early on, and I was able to do that for the most part.”
Lester cruised through the first three innings, getting nine outs on 32 pitches. What followed was a 40-pitch fourth inning that featured a leadoff, three-base error and two soft ground ball singles. He stopped the bleeding early though, getting Mike Moustakas and Yasmani Grandal to strike out before ending the inning on an easy force play at second base.
“It’s just kind of the nature of the beast,” he said. “Those hits can happen when it’s hot and sunny. I think it just comes back to that you can be mad at one time, but as soon as you get back up on that rubber you’ve got to forget about what’s just transpired and try to execute the next pitch as best you can.
“It’s the ability to slow the moment down, and really see it for what it is,” Maddon added. “Some guys just start going the other way and it becomes a hamster wheel, other guys get off the wheel. I’ve seen him continually do that better over the last several years.”
Over the last month, Lester’s pitched 19 innings while holding batters to a .180/.196/.220 line. He’s got six more strikeouts (19) than hits allowed (13) and has only walked one guy.
“He’s just been really good all year long,” said Kris Bryant, whose seventh inning homer gave the Cubs some much-appreciated breathing room. “I think he missed one or two starts on the [IL] but he hasn’t missed a beat. He’s super fun to play behind, super competitive. We know what we’re going to get from him.”Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Cubs easily on your device.