'No rules' for Game 7: Jon Lester will be ready if Cubs need another World Series moment

'No rules' for Game 7: Jon Lester will be ready if Cubs need another World Series moment

CLEVELAND – Jon Lester understands the first rule of Game 7 in the World Series – “there’s really no rules” – so obviously the $155 million ace the Cubs signed for this exact scenario will be ready to pitch out of the bullpen on Wednesday night. 
But Lester has too much respect for Kyle Hendricks – a fellow Cy Young Award contender this year – to make this about himself. Lester knows Hendricks will be thoroughly prepared to face this Cleveland Indians lineup. Lester respects how Hendricks always keeps his composure and won’t get rattled by the deafening noise at Progressive Field.
“Hopefully, nothing weird is needed,” Lester said after watching his teammates dismantle Cleveland during a 9-3 win in Game 6. “Hopefully, Kyle is Kyle and the guys that have gotten us here are called upon – and I keep my happy little butt right there in the dugout – and I don’t have to worry about anything.”
Manager Joe Maddon clearly has trust issues with his overall bullpen, using closer Aroldis Chapman to get the final eight outs after Lester controlled Cleveland for six innings during a 3-2 win in Game 5. Chapman threw 42 pitches on Sunday night – and then 48 hours later got four outs in a game where the Cubs had jumped out to a seven-run lead.
“If we’re in that weird situation and they have to bring me in, then we have three months to recover,” Lester said. “I’ll do what I can. If (Joe) wants me to get one out, if he wants me to get whatever, it's the same thing when I start a game: I’ll pitch until you take me out. I don’t make those decisions. Hopefully, it’s null and void.”

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Lester pitching in November would be the exclamation point to an amazing October. He beat Johnny Cueto and the San Francisco Giants in a 1-0 divisional-round game and earned co-MVP honors in the National League Championship Series after the Cubs won both of his starts against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Lester is simply one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation (2.62 ERA in 130-plus postseason innings), a two-time World Series champion with the Boston Red Sox who already saw this movie when Theo Epstein’s front office sent him a recruiting video after the 2014 season. It built up to the climactic scene where play-by-play man Len Kasper describes the Cubs finally winning their first World Series title since 1908.
“I think that was more to show off their video-board ideas than it was to recruit me,” Lester said. “They were showing me kind of the future of Wrigley and what it was going to look like with the video boards and the new dugouts and the new bullpen and all this other stuff.
“But ask any of us – ‘J-Hey’ (Jason Heyward) and ‘Lack’ (John Lackey) and ‘Zo’ (Ben Zobrist) and ‘Rossy’ (David Ross). That’s why we came here – to bring a championship to Chicago and be a part of that team that does that and breaks that whole deal.” 

Yu Darvish emotional after Cubs lose another tough one: 'I'm so frustrated'

Yu Darvish emotional after Cubs lose another tough one: 'I'm so frustrated'

With their postseason hopes fading by the day and the Cubs needing him most, Yu Darvish delivered on Sunday.

And yet, the game ended in a far-too familiar way for the Cubs: with a 3-2 loss, the Cubs’ fifth-straight one-run defeat — and third since Thursday when they were tied or leading in the ninth inning or later.

“If you just play back the tape, it’s almost unbelievable that it turned out this way,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Also, the games against Cincinnati. For the last six, this is really wash and repeat. Of course it’s frustrating."

Darvish was extremely emotional postgame, as evidenced by a mud stain spread across his locker resulting from an anger-laced throw of his cleat. He pitched well — 8 1/3 innings, three earned runs, 12 strikeouts and no walks — only running into trouble in the ninth.

“I’m so frustrated, you can see it, right?” he said, looking back at his locker. “We have to win, especially today, but we lost.”

The 33-year-old right-hander was rolling heading into the ninth, which started off with pinch-hit triple by Jose Martinez that hit off Albert Almora Jr.’s glove, despite a valiant diving effort.

“It sucks that we couldn’t win that game,” Almora said. “I really wanted to make that play there. Can’t catch them all, but I tried.”

For what it’s worth, Craig Kimbrel didn’t pitch Sunday because he was unavailable, though Maddon said he would’ve stuck with Darvish even if his closer was available.

"I was happy at that point, but right now everything just….There’s no words right now," Darvish said.

That’s neither here nor there, though. What matters is that the Cubs lost another game that they seemed to have in their grasp, only to see it slip away late. They're now eliminated from NL Central contention, and their elimination number in the Wild Card race is three.

Even Maddon struggled to explain the series, one where the Cubs played quite well but only saw their playoff hopes take a big hit.

“It’s really difficult,” he said. “You look at it, how did that all happen? How did we lose all those four games? They were just one runner better than us every night and they were really evenly matched. That’s all I will concede.”

Although Darvish admitted he feels responsible for Sunday’s loss, Maddon spoke highly of the right-hander, even comparing how he's pitched to what Jake Arrieta did during his tenure with the Cubs. 

“I saw Jake pitch really well and win a Cy Young, but this is equivalent of all of that,” he said. “The stuff, command of his stuff. [Darvish] absolutely deserved a better fate.”

Whether you think that Maddon was being too hyperbolic there or not, there’s no doubting that Darvish looked excellent for majority of his outing on Sunday. Baseball is a game of inches, something the Cubs experienced firsthand this weekend.

“They got us. They got us,” Maddon said. “Give them credit for that, but we did not leave anything on the field, man.”

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Swept by the Cardinals (and playoff dreams dashed)

USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: Swept by the Cardinals (and playoff dreams dashed)

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Tony Andracki and Kelly Crull discuss the Cardinals sweep, Yu Darvish taking the loss so hard, and what to look for over the final six games of the year.

01:00 - Reaction to being swept by the Cards

03:30 - Darvish taking the loss really hard

05:30 - This is the Yu Darvish Cubs fans thought they were getting when he signed with the Cubs

07:00 - Almora's miscue in the 9th inning of the loss

08:00 - It feels like the end of an era

12:00 - Is this the end of an era for the Cubs?

16:00 - Surprised Rizzo was available on the field for the entire Cardinals series?

20:00 - There is no one thing you can look to that didn't work this season

22:00 - What do you want to see over the final six games?

25:00 - Seeing a cornerstone being helped off the field for a second Sunday in a row

29:00 - How much will we see the injured guys on the field?

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

Cubs Talk Podcast