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In search of consistency, Cubs lose again to Cardinals

Jon Lester struggled again, and the Cubs aren’t steadily playing the “championship-caliber baseball” David Ross wants to see. 

Jon Lester wipes his face during Sunday’s game.
AP Photos

Manager David Ross’ biggest concern for the Cubs isn’t whether they’re in first place, but rrather if they’re playing well when it matters.

“The way I approach this season is, we’ve just got to get better each and every day,” Ross said. “If we can take that mindset, it doesn’t really matter to me that you win the division right now, in this playoff format, or you come in second you get in the playoffs and try to be the best version of yourself to win a World Series.”

After their 7-3 loss Sunday to the Cardinals, the Cubs have lost four of five and aren’t consistently playing the “championship-caliber baseball” Ross wants to see.

“That’s what we haven’t really done lately,” Ross said. “You’ve seen spurts of it, like it’s coming and going, but the consistency in that hasn’t been there.”

The Cubs had a more immediate worry in Jason Heyward, who was replaced in right field by Cameron Maybin to begin the fifth. Ross said Heyward was feeling lightheaded and had shortness of breath and was sent to a hospital for further testing.

“He’s not a guy that you ever have concerns about,” Ross said. “When he says he is having trouble breathing and lightheaded, you want to make sure everything is all right.”

On the field, the Cubs’ starter clearly wasn’t right, either.

After getting swept in a doubleheader Saturday, the Cubs turned to Jon Lester. But with the wind howling out, Lester gave up a solo home run to Tommy Edman in the first and a three-run homer to Paul Goldschmidt and an RBI double to Rangel Ravelo in the third before leaving with one out in the fourth.

Lester’s ERA ballooned to 5.80, and he’s stuck on two quality starts. Clearly, he’s not where he wants to be and has work to do before he’s in playoff form.

“You guys have seen the line scores; there’s not much confidence behind that right there,” Lester said. “The work we’re putting in on the side in between starts obviously isn’t translating into the starts. I don’t know what that is, trying to take positives out of every five days but there’s not many. I pride myself on work and pitching innings and keeping my team in the ballgame and that obviously, frankly is not the story right now.”

Ross, who obviously is pretty familiar with Lester, said the veteran left-hander is fighting himself right now and trying to find his rhythm and the angle to his pitches.

“Just seems, just doesn’t look like himself out there right now, the guy that I’ve known for a long time,” Ross said. “I know he’s working hard to get back to that. He’s extremely frustrated. He expects much better from himself, I know that.”

Perhaps in a normal season, the Cubs would have plenty of time to smooth over some of the problems and work their way into better form. That isn’t the case this year, even though the Cubs are just 41 games into the season.

“I don’t know how the guys feel, but the postseason’s not even really on the radar yet,” Ross said.

“I think normally you’re scoreboard watching and you’re feeling a sense of how things are going to play out and who’s chasing who and all that. We’re still just trying to play good baseball, trying to get better, trying to see where we can improve and be the best version that we can be on the back end of this month.”