Jon Lester, John Lackey the key in Cubs’ hunt for a World Series

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Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester throws during a spring training baseball game against the Kansas City Royals in Mesa, Ariz., on Sunday. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

They like the same things.

“Country music. Hunting. Trucks. You know, stuff like that,’’ John Lackey said last season of his buddy, Jon Lester.

“Guns & Ammo’’ wouldn’t be a bad nickname for the two Cubs pitchers, especially in a season in which the team’s prey is the World Series. Lester and Lackey very well could decide if the franchise breaks its 107-year futility streak. That should be both comforting and frightening for Cubs fans.

Lester won two World Series rings and Lackey one with the Red Sox. They are used to the pressure of the postseason. Lester was good last season, his 3.34 earned-run average giving the lie to his 11-12 record. Lackey had his best season in years, with a career-low 2.77 ERA with the Cardinals.

If you’re a Cubs fatalist and you believe you’re more likely to see a Bernie Sanders sticker on a gun-racked pickup truck than a North Side World Series in your lifetime, then you have plenty of things to worry about. Lackey is 37. It’s true that he has had just two losing seasons in his 13-year career, with one coming in the Red Sox’ 2013 championship season. It’s also true that age catches up with everybody. The big question for Lackey this season is a short one: When?

Lester, 32, didn’t look worthy of his six-year, $155 million contract last season. He lost both his starts in the postseason. Then there’s the recent revelation that he pitched last season with a bone chip in his (left) pitching elbow. In an interview with the Sun-Times, Lester said that, although he’s not worried about the chip, he might need surgery to remove it if it shifts in his elbow. Can you say “unsettling?’’

Add Lester’s inability to field and throw to first base accurately, and your angst will have plenty of material for preoccupation purposes.

The Cubs know they’re going to get a very good Jake Arrieta again this season. They probably figure that one of their young stars – Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell – will go through some kind of a sophomore slump.

As they hunt for that elusive World Series, they can’t know for sure what Lester and Lackey will do. The Cubs very well could win or lose this because of them. Comforting. And scary.

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