Now is as good a time as any for pitchers to start stepping up.
Helping the Cubs make another playoff push, John Lackey turned in one of his best outings of the season, even though his team had nothing to show for it in a 2-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night at Wrigley Field.
Entering the day, the Cubs were 9-1 in Lackey’s previous 10 starts. Even though the Cubs couldn’t muster any offense against the Brewers, Lackey certainly did his part. That’s encouraging to see, given that the Cubs are already without their hottest pitcher right now in Jake Arrieta.
“I’m feeling strong, I’m feeling a lot better,” Lackey said. “Even at this point last season I was kind of grinding through a shoulder situation around this time last year, so it’s nice to feel good and compete when you’re feeling physically nice.”
The 38-year-old righthander pitched seven innings of two-run ball on four hits, two walks and a homer on Friday. He also recorded nine strikeouts, one shy of his season-high. His only mistake came in the third batter of the game, a two-run blast to Ryan Braun.
After that, Lackey looked sharp.
“I felt really good tonight,” Lackey said. “Really with the week off, I was almost a little too strong in the first inning. Threw too many fastballs, I was up in the zone a little bit, but my arm just felt great. Physically it felt great.
“Then once I kind of settled in and started using everything after that, things started rolling pretty good.”
A free agent at the end of the season, Lackey is showing the Cubs he's giving all he's got. And in a season where the Cubs have been plagued with injuries – including star pitchers Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Arrieta – Lackey’s production will surely be a nice boost if the Cubs want to pull away in the NL Central.
Right now, Lackey is doing his part, and it couldn't come at a better time.