Left-han­der has an­other qual­ity ef­fort as Cubs re­turn with vic­tory over In­di­ans

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - RUSSELL DORSEY rdorsey@sun­times.com | @Russ_Dorsey1

Left-han­der Jon Lester has been the leader of the Cubs’ ro­ta­tion since sign­ing with the club be­fore the 2015 sea­son. He has been a model of con­sis­tency and a key to their suc­cess over the last half-decade.

The Cubs un­der­went a chang­ing of the guard this sea­son as the team turned to Yu Darvish and Kyle Hen­dricks to lead the front end of the ro­ta­tion and shifted their work­horse, Lester, to the back of the ro­ta­tion.

Lester has shown that he can thrive in his cur­rent role. He con­tin­ued his hot start to the short­ened reg­u­lar sea­son with an­other im­pres­sive per­for­mance in the Cubs’ 7-1 vic­tory Tues­day over the In­di­ans.

It had been nine days be­tween starts for Lester, but the long lay­off wasn’t an is­sue. He kept the ball down, lim­it­ing dam­age and let­ting his de­fense do the heavy lift­ing.

“I mean, that’s not easy,” man­ager David Ross said about Lester’s rest. “I think, one, it just shows what a pro he is. You could tell he was just not quite as sharp as he would want to be out of the stretch, but he bat­tled tonight. He made big pitches.”

Lester worked his cut­ter in tan­dem with his changeup, which he threw more this out­ing than in his first two starts — a de­ci­sion that pro­duced nine ground balls and bad con­tact. The av­er­age exit ve­loc­ity against Lester’s changeup was only 82.2 mph, ac­cord­ing to Base­ball Sa­vant.

“I think go­ing into spring train­ing, my curve­ball was bet­ter,’’ Lester said. ‘‘I had a bet­ter feel for it. For what­ever rea­son, com­ing back from all this stuff, I’ve just had a bet­ter feel for my changeup. Tonight, other than the one I threw 12 feet and bounced off [Francisco] Lin­dor, I felt like that was prob­a­bly the best curve­ball I’ve had up to this point.”

Lester pro­duced a sea­son-high eight swings and misses against Cleve­land, in­clud­ing four with his cut­ter. He hadn’t got­ten more than three be­fore this out­ing.

Even for a pitcher not known for his swing-and-miss stuff any­more, be­ing able to miss a bar­rel can only help as he nav­i­gates line­ups.

“I think we all go through stretches where ob­vi­ously ev­ery fast­ball, your sinker and your cut­ter, those three right there usu­ally stay right around the same,” Lester said. “The changeup and the curve­ball some­times flip-flop, so you’re gonna have to ride that wave. Riding that right now with the change, and it kind of played into the game plan tonight with th­ese guys.”

Lester suf­fered min­i­mal dam­age and ran into his only real trou­ble in the sixth in­ning.

Af­ter hit­ting Lin­dor with the curve­ball, Lester was close to get­ting out of the in­ning un­scathed be­fore Fran­mil Reyes’ two-out RBI dou­ble broke up the shutout.

The of­fense helped Lester out as it put up a five-run sixth in­ning to give him some breath­ing room.

Right fielder Ja­son Hey­ward (3-for-4) capped the in­ning with a three-run blast to give the Cubs a six-run lead.

The ro­ta­tion has been the cat­a­lyst for the Cubs in 2020, and with Lester’s lat­est, it has now had a qual­ity start in seven of its last eight out­ings.

Lester earned his se­cond con­sec­u­tive vic­tory and had his third straight start al­low­ing four hits or fewer. He went six in­nings, al­low­ing one run and three hits. Lester struck out four, walked two and low­ered his ERA to 1.06.

“He’s the ul­ti­mate com­peti­tor,” Ross said. “He’s go­ing to fig­ure out a way to win, to beat you.’’


Starter Jon Lester picked up his se­cond vic­tory af­ter go­ing six in­nings and al­low­ing one run and three hits.

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