Jon Lester’s first three starts this season were masterful as he avoided both damage and hard contact, but the longtime ace’s latest two outings have been ones to forget.
On Friday night, Lester faced a White Sox lineup that came in as MLB’s best against left-handed pitching, with a .943 team OPS against southpaws.
“They’re good. They’re swinging the bats well,” Cubs manager David Ross said before the Cubs lost 10-1. “They have a ton of slug up and down the lineup. [They’re] the big-swing home run team that can burn you at any minute.”
Lester felt that power early and often as the Sox slugged four homers off him. There was a lot of loud contact against Lester starting in the second inning as young Sox phenom Luis Robert crushed a two-run shot to left field, giving the Sox the early lead.
“Too many hard-hit balls,” Lester said.
He also allowed homers to Jose Abreu, Danny Mendick and Yasmani Grandal in the third and fourth innings before being removed. Nine balls put in play against Lester were hit at more than 95 mph.
“They have some damaging power throughout their whole lineup,” Lester said. “Then you mix in guys like Grandal, Abreu and Edwin [Encarnacion] that are going to work more of the counts.
“I feel like some of their younger guys are looking for that mistake, and they’re not missing it right now. They’re confident against lefties — they’re swinging the bat well against them. If you’re in there for 100 pitches and you’re not executing 99 of them, they’re gonna make you pay.”
Lester allowed eight runs and nine hits over 3 ⅔ innings, striking out three. It was his second consecutive start in which he allowed five or more runs.
“I feel like the hits leading up to that point have been hits that I can deal with,” he said. “[But if] you’re giving up two- and three-run homers, it’s hard to come back from those.”
Bryant, Chatwood updates
Third baseman Kris Bryant missed his third consecutive game as he continues to get treatment on his jammed left wrist. He received an injection Wednesday. Ross said the Cubs waiting to see how the wrist responds.
“He’s still progressing in the right direction,” Ross said. “[We’ll] see how things feel after treatment [Friday], if he’s able to hit in the cage or on the field. Taking it day-to-day from here on out.”
Bryant is slashing .177/.271/.323 with two home runs and four RBI in 16 games this season.
Meanwhile, right-hander Tyler Chatwood saw a specialist earlier this week after he was put on the 10-day injured list Sunday with a mid-back strain. The visit confirmed the Cubs’ original diagnosis.
Chatwood played long toss Friday and is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Saturday.