IN NEED OF STRIV­ING DI­REC­TIONS

Lester strug­gles for in­con­sis­tent Cubs, who lose to Car­di­nals again; Hey­ward goes to hos­pi­tal af­ter feel­ing light­headed

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - Twit­ter: @Bri­anSan­dalow BRIAN SANDALOW

Man­ager David Ross’ big­gest con­cern for the Cubs isn’t whether they’re in first place, but rather 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.”

NAM Y. HUH/AP

Cubs start­ing pitcher Jon Lester couldn’t get through the fourth in­ning Sun­day.

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