PHOENIX – Almost lost in the marathon loss to the Diamondbacks that started Friday and ended Saturday for the Cubs was that starting pitcher Jon Lester may have offered the best glimpse yet into why the Cubs gave him all that money.
Not because he had $155 million stuff. Mostly because he didn’t.
And maybe because he’s not pressing anymore.
“I don’t know if pressing’s the right word,” said Lester, who had a miserable April after signing that six-year megadeal. “But I think obviously you come to a new team, new guys, new city, new everything, and you want to get off on the right foot and you want to do well.
“Everybody knows [about] the contract. You definitely don’t want to be one of those guys where at the end of it you look at it as a bust.”
On Friday night, the results of Lester’s seven-inning start looked more like his last few years in Boston than his first few starts in Chicago.
It was “workmanlike” and “businesslike,” said manager Joe Maddon.
It was anything but dominant, with runners on base in all but one inning, the leadoff man on in the final three – the kind of game he loses in April without getting past six innings instead of getting a 2-2 game to through seven.
It was his first start in May that he didn’t earn a win, which says more about lack of run support. It was the first in his last six starts that the Cubs lost (5-4 in 13 innings), which says more about closer Hector Rondon’s 10th-inning breakdown.
But the biggest takeaway seemed to be that three-time All-Star has dramatically turned a corner since April – and that he admitted the savior-like responsibility that comes with the contract had something to do with it.
“You obviously want everything to go right. You want everything to just fall into place,” he said. “But sometimes that’s not the case. Sometimes you have to take a few beatings to get back to doing the things you’re used to.
“It took me a little bit of time, but I’m starting to feel a little bit more comfortable. The results have been better, so we’ll just keep trying to figure things out as we go.”
He’s 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA in five starts this month, totaling 34 innings. In April: 0-2, 6.23 with just 22 2/3 innings over four starts.
“I don’t like to use the word press,” he said, “but I was definitely trying to fit in, trying to do well, trying to get off on the right foot, all those things. You get a month under you and get away from that and get into some turns, and things start kind of progressing from there.”