Cubs

Jon Lester on Cubs: ‘I don’t want to sound like an a--hole, but we haven’t really done anything yet’

Jon Lester on Cubs: ‘I don’t want to sound like an a--hole, but we haven’t really done anything yet’

CINCINNATI – Jon Lester says he speaks for the entire clubhouse when he offers to trade it all in – the individual numbers, All-Star selections, Cy Young honors, MVP hardware – for a World Series ring with the Cubs. 

The Cubs are trying to have it all, 100-plus wins, the awards season, all those off-the-field endorsement deals and so much extroverted personality that it draws the attention of baseball’s fun police. But Lester understands October is where this team will ultimately be remembered.

“I don’t want to sound like an a--hole or anything, but we haven’t really done anything yet,” Lester said after the Cincinnati Reds denied him his 20th win on Saturday at Great American Ball Park.

“Amen!” might be the response from anyone sick of the coronations from the national media and tired of Joe Maddon’s “Embrace The Target” act. Their first-round opponent will feel that way, whether it’s the New York Mets, San Francisco Giants or St. Louis Cardinals. But five words summed up Lester’s attitude after this 7-4 loss: “Flush it down the toilet.”

That’s essentially how the Cubs have handled everything this year, from all the magazine covers to getting everyone’s best shot between the lines to a rabid fan base that follows them all across the country to what could have been a season-devastating injury to Kyle Schwarber.

That’s why Lester isn’t concerned about the rust accumulating during the two-plus weeks since the Cubs clinched the National League Central title, or the four days off after Sunday’s regular-season finale in Cincinnati.

“The big thing with this team is we’re just consistent,” Lester said. “We show up every day ready to play. I think that’s huge, especially with the young group that we have. That’s hard to do. That’s a hard thing to learn at a young age.

“It’s hard to show up every day ready to go – and these guys do it. They have short memories, which I think makes us really good. And we have guys that want to win.

“But really when it comes down to it, this season isn’t anything unless we do what we showed up to spring training to do – win a World Series.”

That’s why the Cubs handed Lester a six-year, $155 million contract, and the big-game lefty with two World Series rings from his time with the Boston Red Sox has so far lived up to those ace expectations in the second season of that megadeal, going 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA. 

Whether or not an ugly last start dents Lester’s Cy Young chances – the Reds scratched him for five runs in five innings and stole three bases off him and personal catcher David Ross, highlighting what could be a running-wild issue in October – he still reached the number that he believes defines the true value of a starting pitcher.

[SHOP: Buy a Jon Lester jersey]

Lester surpassed 200 innings for the eighth time in his career, feeling strong enough to start Game 1 on Oct. 7 and help carry the Cubs through what they expect will be three playoff series. 

“This is the real season now,” Lester said. “You play 162 to get to now. Yeah, it will be completely different when you step on that field come Friday with that crowd. Whoever we’re playing, I’m sure it will be electric.

“That’s when it becomes a lot of fun – every pitch is do or die.”

The Cubs are the NL’s most talented team, with enough hooks to capture casual fans and maybe help grow a stagnant sport. The Ricketts family and Theo Epstein’s crew have The Plan to be good for a long time. But this team will be judged in October.

“The hundred-and-whatever wins are great,” Lester said. “All the personal stuff is great. This is go time now. Now we got to really kind of live up to the expectations and the hype.”

Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

There were some added stakes to Saturday night’s Cubs-Dodgers matchup. Darvish made his first start at Dodger Stadium since his infamous Game 7 loss in the 2017 World Series, looking for a great effort in front of a fan base that had their up-and-downs in terms of their relationship with him. He (maybe) took a small jab at the Dodgers before the game had even started, telling the Los Angeles Times that he wasn't worried about being booed because “the Dodgers don't have many fans here in the first three innings, so maybe it will be on the quieter side.”

Well Dodgers faithful certainly got the message and made sure to let Darvish hear it.

However, Darvish got the last laugh on Saturday night. He pitched a stellar seven innings. Over those seven innings, Darvish gave up 1 ER on 2 hits and also notched 10 strikeouts.

Darvish has been hitting his stride as of late, maintaining a 2.96 ERA over his last four starts.

All of that being said, it would be remiss of me not to mention the contributions of Darvish’s teammates. His great outing helped keep the Cubs in the game, but the gutsy performances of Anthony Rizzo and Pedro Strop are what won the contest.

Dodgers All-Star relief pitcher Kenley Jansen had a 10-game scoreless streak coming into Saturday night, but one swing of Rizzo’s bat was all that was needed to restore balance to the everlasting battle of pitcher versus hitter. After Jansen hit Kris Bryant with a pitch to put him on base, Rizzo activated “clutch mode”, mashing a 400-foot bomb out to right field.

Though small, Saturday night’s homer gives Rizzo a three-game hitting streak, perhaps forecasting that things are trending  upwards for the first baseman as the Cubs look to close out the series against the Dodgers with a win on Sunday night. And not to be left out of the fun, Pedro Strop came in to face the Justin Turner, MVP hopeful Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Matt Beaty to nail down the save.

Never afraid of high-pressure moments, Stop came through big time.

Strop got a ground out from Turner, struck out Bellinger and Beaty in his 15-pitch save effort. This was a much-needed win for the Cubs, who have well-documented struggles on the road. As they look to split the four-game set with the Dodgers on Sunday night, the Cubs can be pleased with their fight this week.

Saturday’s win over the Dodgers was the Cubs first win of the season after trailing through six innings, as they were 0-23 in such situations prior to the victory. Amid a season that has been fraught with injury and general roster construction concerns, it was wonderful to see the Cubs pull out a tough win lead by the much-maligned Darvish and the never-quit attitude of his teammates.

Cubs put Kyle Hendricks on 10-Day IL

Cubs put Kyle Hendricks on 10-Day IL

On Saturday, the Cubs announced that they are placing starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks on the 10-day I.L.with right shoulder inflammation. 

Following Hendricks' injury, the Cubs recalled right-handed pitcher Rowan Wick from Triple-A. Wick will be available on Saturday night and beyond, as the Cubs continue their four-game series against the Dodgers. 

This obviously a significant blow for the Cubs, as Hendricks is the team leader in innings pitched (88.1).

Prior to his loss on Friday night, Hendricks had won three straight outings, giving up less than 3 ER in each game. 

The Cubs have plenty of options to replace Hendricks for the time being. With an off day until Monday, they could keep their rotation intact. Tyler Chatwood and Mike Montgomery are options, and the Cubs could push Hendricks next start back to by going with a spot starter. 

Stellar pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay is another intriuging option, and he is coming off of a great outing with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. On Fridaym he racked up 9 strikeouts, giving up 8 hits and 2 ER. 

The 24-year old Alzolay is ranked as the Cubs' fourth-overall prospect and the Hendricks injury could open the door for Alzolay to get called up.

The more likely scenario is that Cubs manager Joe Maddon chooses to use Chatwood. 

Chatwood is the only pitcher outside of the everyday rotation to have made a start this year and is the most obvious stopgap solution until we get further updates on Hendricks' status.