Jon Lester looks the part in Cubs’ sixth straight win

SHARE Jon Lester looks the part in Cubs’ sixth straight win

Games like Saturday are partially why the Cubs gave Jon Lester $155 million for six years. Sure, they’ll get their full money’s worth if and when he wins in October, but what he did against Gerrit Cole and the Pittsburgh Pirates on a warm May afternoon has value as well.

Pitching with the wind blowing out and a day after the bullpen was shredded over 6 1/3 innings, Lester threw seven innings and allowed only one run while striking out seven in a 4-1 victory over the Pirates. The bullpen needed to be saved, and even with a hot offense Lester probably wasn’t getting much support against Cole, but he did more than enough to lead the Cubs to their sixth consecutive victory.

In short, it was an ace’s performance.

“Obviously, we all know, starting pitchers coming into the day of your start what kind of transpired the day before, the day before that,” Lester said. “Obviously yesterday was a long one for us and you know you have to figure out a way to go deep in the game.”

What Lester did is what somebody with Lester’s contract and pedigree is expected to do. Actually, it’s what Lester needs to do for the Cubs to turn their warm May feelings into a season with a memorable October conclusion.

Other than Sean Rodriguez’s third-inning home run, Lester looked and acted the part of the true No. 1 starter the Cubs think he is.

“He’s done it before and he knows what it takes to be that,” Maddon said.

Lester’s outing reached its crescendo in the seventh. With two runners on and the Cubs up 2-1, Lester grabbed at his side on an 0-1 pitch to Andrew McCutchen and was tended to by Maddon and a trainer. After looking at Maddon and saying he was fine, Lester threw a wild pitch that moved runners to first and third, but recovered and got McCutchen looking with a 1-2 fastball on the outside corner to end the threat.

As he left the mound, Lester yelled in excitement and the season-high crowd of 38,883 erupted.

“Not just for me… that’s kind of a huge turning point in the game right there,” Lester said. “They got a little momentum, some infield hits. To get out of there unscathed is huge, especially in that tight game.”

A little more than a month ago, there was doubt whether Lester would create that at Wrigley. He lost his first two decisions as he worked back to form after the dead arm that plagued him in spring training.

But things have changed in May. Not only did he get his 1,500th strikeout of his career when he struck out Rodriguez to end the fourth, but he won his fourth consecutive start for the fifth time and first since May 3, 2011.

“Jon was Jon. He’s pretty special out there,” Kris Bryant said. “Competing every pitch. He made some really good pitches. I think we were in a couple jams there and he got some big strikeouts. He wears his heart on his sleeve and it’s pretty cool to see out of a guy like that. I’m learning a lot from him and how he focused he is. He did a really good job today.”

Maddon echoed that.

“Jonny was fabulous and that permitted everything to work for us today, because their pitcher was really good too,” Maddon said. “That’s what I was talking about – you have to pitch better than good pitching to win, and we had the better pitching today. Jonny set that whole thing up. He was outstanding.”

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