Jon Lester on all the Cubs’ uncertainty into final day: ‘Just deal with it’

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Jon Lester is 6-1 with a 1.71 ERA in his last eight starts as he prepares for his postseason opener -- either Tuesday in a wild-card game or Thursday in an NLDS opener.

Jon Lester has been in the middle of these down-to-the-final-game scenarios before.

So if anybody’s preparing for the possibility of taking the mound Tuesday in a wild-card game instead of a division series opener Thursday, it’s Lester, right?

“No,” Lester said as he pulled on his coat to head out of the Cubs clubhouse after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Cardinals.

Game 162 of the regular season Sunday – with Mike Montgomery starting against Cards rookie Jack Flaherty – is enough for Lester to consider, regardless of all the October implications for what might follow.

“That’s all we can control,” he said.

The Cubs’ ace is expected to open Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Thursday if the Cubs survive the charging Brewers to win the National League Central.

He’s ready to react to whatever might be asked of him after the dust settles Sunday.

“All our guys are,” said Lester, who would be on his natural fifth day for a start Tuesday. “We all know the situation. But at the same time you can’t worry about it.

“Whatever situation arises tomorrow we’ll figure it out and then deal with the consequences from there.”

That could mean anything from returning to the ballpark Monday for a division-title tiebreaker to resting up for a playoff opener Thursday.

This is the third time for Lester that the final day of the season arrived with so much significance.

In 2011 with the late-fading Red Sox, he started the season finale, handed off a 3-2 lead to the bullpen and watched as the Orioles came back in the ninth to eliminate the Sox.

In 2014 after a trade from Boston to Oakland, the A’s qualified for the second wild-card berth on the final day of the season, putting Lester on the mound for the wild-card game in Kansas City. He handed off a lead in the eighth, before another elimination loss.

“It’s different,” Lester said of the drama and fallout of final-day uncertainty. “It’s something you have to deal with. But if we take care of our business, we don’t need to worry about other teams and what they’re doing.”

The Cubs are assured playoff baseball regardless of Sunday’s outcome. And the division title remains in their control – even if it means playing back-to-back days against the Cards and Brewers.

“If that’s the hand we’re dealt, that’s the hand we’re dealt,” Lester said. “Just deal with it.”

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