Surrounded by reporters, Jon Lester leaned against the chair in front of his locker and kept shrugging his shoulders.
The Cubs seemed a little dazed and confused after getting knocked around by the Detroit Tigers during this two-game interleague series at Wrigley Field. The Tigers put 25 runs on the board and finished with eight homers and 40 hits against a Cubs staff that’s supposed to be pitching deep into October.
Lester’s even-keel off-the-field personality wouldn’t allow him to hit the panic button after Wednesday night’s 15-8 loss. But the Cubs have real questions about the state of their rotation.
“I’ve been down this road a time or two,” Lester said. “We’re all human. But one thing I’ve always tried to do is when this one’s over, it’s over. I’m back tomorrow and I’ll watch the game again (with) a clear head and see where everything was (and) move on.
“This season’s too long. It’s too much of an up-and-down (ride) to allow one of those abomination starts that stick out to effect your season. Obviously, this is a bad time of the year to have one.
“Tomorrow, we’ll come back and look at it and evaluate it. And make sure that I’m not going crazy (and) flush it down the drain.”
The Cubs are 67-51 and three games in front of the San Francisco Giants for the second wild-card spot, trailing the Pittsburgh Pirates by four games for home-field advantage in a one-game playoff.
The Tigers are underachieving this year at 58-61, but they still have high-end talent with Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez anchoring the middle of their lineup.
Lester came into the game with a 5.25 ERA in 10 career starts against Detroit. This time, he couldn’t finish the third inning, walking off the mound with his team down 7-0.
“They’ve obviously been a thorn in my side for a long time,” Lester said. “That’s easy to see and something that stands out. But with that being said, I still got to figure out a way to get deeper in that game.
“Like I’ve said from Day 1, I’ll be honest with you guys as best I can. I’m being honest with you right now. I’m scratching my head.
“I feel like within that game, there were pitches that were made that deserved better results.”
This has been a strong overall season for Lester (8-9, 3.58 ERA) in the first year of that $155 million megadeal. But he couldn’t believe the ball Nick Castellanos hammered into the left-center field bleachers for a grand slam in the third inning.
“I think I can go back two years and that’s the first first-pitch curveball hit (against me) — let alone homer,” Lester said.
There was also the 94-mph fastball in the second inning that Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris blasted out to center field for a two-run homer in his first big-league at-bat.
Norris was a key piece in the David Price blockbuster with the Toronto Blue Jays and had been a pitcher the Cubs liked when they shopped Jeff Samardzija last year. Norris had knocked out a video-board panel the day before during batting practice, but he left this game in the fifth inning with a strained oblique muscle.
Don’t look at Lester for any easy explanations with the Cubs now trying to stop a three-game losing streak.
“I don’t know,” Lester said more than once. “No matter what I say tonight, it really doesn’t justify or sum up anything that happened tonight. You try to step back and come up with answers (and) reasons. I want to say I threw the ball down the middle. But there were some good pitches that were made tonight that got hit.”