MINNEAPOLIS - Have you ever seen a pitcher actually WANT to come out of a game?
These guys are the best hurlers in the world. They always think they can get the next batter or pitch the whole game.
But Joe Maddon didn't let Jon Lester talk him into facing another hitter in the seventh inning of Saturday's 4-1 win over the Twins in Minnesota.
Lester had just gotten Torii Hunter to ground out to third base to begin the inning and the Cubs' $155-million ace admitted he wasn't happy at all to hit the showers. But he also wasn't ready to make a scene in the third-base dugout at Target Field.
"I never [want to come out]," he said. "That's just the way I've always been. I don't want to leave games. I feel like you always have more. But that's why you have managers and pitching coaches to make those decisions for you.
"I may not be happy at the time, but I'll never second-guess a manager and what they're trying to do."
Lester understands Maddon is looking at the big picture, but the veteran left-hander also admitted he was surprised at the timing of the hook - with nobody on base and one out in a tie ballgame.
Maddon explained he didn't want to leave Lester in at 102 pitches to face Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki, who accounted for the only run off Lester with a second-inning home run on a first-pitch fastball down the middle of the plate.
Maddon said he was fine with Lester making his case to stay in the game...and being unhappy when it didn't change Maddon's mind.
"Yes, absolutely. And I want that," Maddon said. "I was watching it closely. He was over 100 [pitches] and it was really humid and hot out there. And I just thought his stuff maybe took a step backward.
"Maybe more than that, Suzuki had some really good swings on him all day. And you're in that situation where you can't give up anything.
"[Lester] had done his job. He had a great day. He pitched really, really well. Good stuff. But I thought it was the right [time to pull him]."
Lester is a fierce competitor who has won two World Series rings with the Boston Red Sox. Maddon is a former American League Manager of the Year who has a nice track record of handling a pitching staff and communicating well with players.
This wasn't a case of a first-year manager like Rick Renteria deciding to pull a young starting pitcher like Kyle Hendricks.
Maddon gave his rationale to Lester, a gesture that sat well with the southpaw.
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"I don't need an explanation, but it's nice that he did," Lester said. "I'm not happy, but that doesn't mean I'm down there second-guessing or yelling at the manager. We're all competitors. He's competing along with us.
"I'll never second-guess what's going on in the game with moves and all that stuff. His job is hard enough, my job is hard enough, I just try to stay in my own lane.
"But the explanation was nice and I think that always kind of eases your mind when you do get an explanation."