Maybe it was the wind. Maybe it was just the big, bad Detroit Tigers lineup.
“I’m just really happy it wasn’t a three-game series,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after the Tigers clobbered the Cubs 15-8 on Wednesday — combining for 25 runs and 40 hits, including eight home runs.
“It was like the Phillies [series] returning,” Maddon said, referring to a three-game home sweep to the lowly Phillies (including a Cole Hamels no-hitter) just before the Cubs went on an extended winning run.
One night after Jason Hammel lasted just three innings, $155 million Jon Lester couldn’t get out of the third — giving up three home runs, including a solo shot and grand slam in successive innings to Nick Castellanos.
Along the way, Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris homered to center of Lester in Norris’ first big-league at-bat.
“Yes, Jonny was not on top of his game, but he’s going to be fine,” Maddon said. “I have no concerns whatsoever.”
Wednesday night marked the first start for Lester since signing with the Cubs that the wind turned Wrigley Field into a hitter’s paradise. Similar conditions prevailed Tuesday night for Hammel.
“I think the bigger effect was the Tigers themselves,” Maddon said.
Lester seemed confused at how easily the Tigers seemed to handle some of his better pitches — including Castellanos hitting a grand slam on a first-pitch curve ball in the third. That’s believed to be the first hit off a Lester curve ball since 2013.
But the ballpark?
“I haven’t seen it like it’s been the last two days. This is the first time for me,” said Lester, who was reluctant to blame conditions for the results. “It’s easy to point fingers at things. I don’t know. I’m trying to look at the pitches that were made, and the results that were there, and it doesn’t quite correspond to what’s going on.
“No matter what I say it doesn’t justify the outcome.”
It was the Cubs’ third straight loss after having won 15 of their previous 16.
Meanwhile, the Pirates won to increase their lead to 4 games over the Cubs for the top wild-card position in the National League. The Cubs still hold a three-game advantage over the Giants for the second wild-card position.
Lester had a 1.92 ERA over his previous eight starts.
“I’ve been down this road a time or two. I’ve had shorter outings,” Lester said. “The season’s too long and it’s too much of an up-and-down [thing] to allow one of those abomination starts that stick out to affect your season.
“Obviously, this is a bad time of the year to have one, and it’s a bad time especially after [Tuesday’s bullpen-heavy game].”