John Lackey hadn't pitched in a game in almost a month, but naturally came out firing with a no-hitter through four innings Sunday.
Of course. Would you expect anything less with this Cubs team?
In a way, it was almost a worst-case scenario for Joe Maddon and the Cubs as Lackey kept the Giants hitless through the first 13 outs.
Before the Cubs' wild 3-2 walk-off win in 13 innings Sunday, Maddon said he wanted to limit Lackey to around 80 pitches, which could've meant putting a run at history on the backburner.
That situation never played out, however, as Eduardo Nunez lined a double to right-center with one out in the fifth inning and Lackey was removed after five with 76 pitches under his belt.
The veteran right-hander showed no ill effects from the shoulder injury that has sidelined him since Aug. 14, dialing it up to the low 90s with his fastball and showing his typical command.
"I felt pretty good," Lackey said. "I was locating the ball pretty well today. We had a good mix goin' on.
"You're not gonna feel nothing. It's just not possible. This time of year and this point in my career. There's things you gotta grind through; there's things you gotta adjust to. I feel like I can do that pretty well."
Lackey allowed two runs (one earned) while striking out four.
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Prior to Sunday's game, Maddon confirmed the Cubs will move forward with a six-man rotation, with Mike Montgomery getting the start Wednesday in Milwaukee.
With a big lead in the NL Central and a playoff spot all but assured, the Cubs are aiming to keep every pitcher at the top of their game for a potential World Series run.
"Just trying to keep guys fresh for the rest of the year," Maddon said. "It's no more complicated than that. ... "I think every factor that can be considered right now, just makes all the sense in the world."
Maddon pointed to the rest of baseball, where young pitchers are being shut down for the season and even veterans are worn down by the grind of a six-month slate of games.
Maddon acknowledged veteran starters like Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester may not like the addition of a sixth man to the rotation as creatures of habit, but everything is about winning that final game of the season.
He also referenced the way Arrieta ran into a wall in the postseason after pitching by far the most innings of his career.
"At the end of the day, these guys have been trained to think a certain way," Maddon said. "And I get that. I totally get it. But I also believe the training that really surpasses the conventional part is to get to a World Series.
"Last year, we saw it right before our very eyes with Jake and the jump that he had encountered and what it meant at the end of the season.
"Right now, our starters are pitching probably as well as they have all year. So I like to think that if we continue along this path, we can keep that kind of freshness about them."