MILWAUKEE — Moreso than any other team in baseball the last few years, the Brewers know how to exploit Jon Lester's Achilles' heel.
Lester's yips at throwing the ball over to keep runners close on the basepaths is something that has caused him some issues against Ryan Braun and the Brew Crew in recent seasons.
And due to the way the schedule played out, Lester wasn't initially supposed to even face the Brewers in this series. He was supposed to go in the final game in Cincinnati, but since that was rained out, Lester got the ball for Game 1 in Milwaukee Thursday night.
When asked before the game how the Cubs plan to combat the Brewers' extreme aggressiveness on the basepaths against Lester, Joe Maddon shrugged and admitted, "there's not much you can do. Just try to keep them off base."
Well, Braun reached base with two outs in the first inning of the Cubs' 8-0 win Thurdsay and he proceeded to steal second before Lester even wound up and fired a pitch to cleanup hitter Travis Shaw.
Braun got greedy and tried to swipe third, too, but Lester was ready with the bounce-pass he's been working on since spring training:
So was all that according to plan from the bounce-pass ("Pippen to Jordan") Lester worked on in spring training?
"We got an out. So yes," he said.
It wasn't a surprise for Lester or the Cubs that they would try to test him early. This is part of the reason why Lester has always been a bad matchup with the Brewers and why he hasn't faced them since 2016. But you can't steal first, and Lester permitted just three hits on top of that Braun walk in six innings.
"They're an athletic team," Lester said. "I think they led the league last year in stolen bases, so you know they're going to bring that to the table. If you don't allow baserunners, then it's OK."
After Braun was thrown out, Javy Baez ran by him in getting off the field and said, "I told him only once, not twice."
Lester caught the St. Louis Cardinals by surprise last year when he picked Tommy Pham off first base and now he's done the same thing to the Cubs' other division rival.
And this is only Lester's second start of the season. He's gonna set a new career high for pickoffs in 2018. You better believe the rest of the league is taking notice.
"It's big. It's very big," Maddon said. "It's all written down. Now that he's done it. Picking Pham off last year. ... I like what he's doing. I think he's really going to get comfortable with that and that's all he needs to do to fulfill what we need to get done."