Jon Lester doesn't get the same attention as teammates Jake Arrieta or MLB ERA leader Kyle Hendricks, but the veteran southpaw is staking his claim in the NL Cy Young race.
With just about a month left in the season, Lester looks worth every cent of the $155 million contract he signed prior to 2015.
Lester took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and dominated the San Francisco Giants Friday in a 2-1 Cubs victory in front of 40,818 fans at Wrigley Field.
Hunter Pence's homer with two outs in the seventh was the only blemish on Lester's line as he needed 102 pitches in a complete game effort.
"I didn't think his stuff was overpowering," catcher David Ross said. "He just really moved the ball around and executed the pitches when he had to.
"When you got an aggressive team like that and the ball moving all over the place like it was today, good things happen."
Lester improved to 15-4 on the season, lowering his ERA to 2.61 by allowing only five baserunners (three hits, two walks) with four strikeouts.
That marks seven straight quality starts for Lester, who has surrendered just seven earned runs in that span, good for a 1.35 ERA. Only Hendricks (1.28 ERA) has a better mark since late July.
This is more like it after an inconsistent debut season in Chicago.
"Last year, his numbers were good. I don't think Jon would tell you he had a good year," said Ross, Lester's personal catcher. "But I think his numbers were really good, consistent for him.
"This is Jon Lester [now]. This is the guy I know. This is the guy I've known since I've been catching him. This is typical Jon. He's gonna go out, keep you within striking distance and he's gonna give you all he's got when he steps on the mound.
"He expects perfection out of himself and I expect that of him when I catch him. He's having a phenomenal year."
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Lester is also tied for the MLB lead with 22 quality starts and the Cubs have won 20 of his 27 starts, tops in the big leagues.
The 32-year-old southpaw has 17 starts with one or fewer earned runs this season.
So maybe he's the pick for Cy Young over Hendricks or Arrieta?
"It's fun to be a part of," Lester said. "At the same time, I don't really care. I'd rather have a ring. Individual stuff is obviously really cool and it's nice, but those World Series trophies look nice on your mantle, too. I'd rather have those."
Ross gave the Cubs the lead in the third with an RBI double. After Lester bunted his catcher over to third base, Dexter Fowler drove home Ross with a looping single over shortstop.
The Cubs had a prime opportunity to tack on in the bottom of the eighth, but Jason Heyward lined into a double play with the bases loaded.
The Cubs have now won five in a row and nine straight at Wrigley Field, improving to 40 games over .500 at 87-47.
"It's pretty incredible," Joe Maddon said. "I always talk about increments of five and I remember back when we were just talking about five [games above .500]. Pre-All Star Break, had that little bit of a hiccup, stubbed our toes, but rebounded pretty nicely.
"There's good energy on the field, there's a strong belief that we're going to play a pretty good game. The defense and the pitching have really set the tone for the whole thing."
Ross echoed his manager's thoughts.
"We're used to winning," the veteran catcher said. "When you get that confidence of being used to winning, it's fun. ... It's a good group, confident. A lot of winners. We expect great things out of ourselves and we expect to win every game. We really do.
"The cool thing for me is that when you got this kind of lead this late in the season and guys are still not giving away at-bats late in the game or when you're down like the other night and still finding ways to come back, that's the sign of guys that are just focused on what's going on on the field and nothing else."