The clunk of the ball bouncing down the left field bleachers signaled the end of Jon Lester’s night on the mound.
It had become the soundtrack of Lester’s outing, the first of a three-game Crosstown series, as the White Sox thrashed the Cubs, 10-1.
This particular home run jumped off the bat of Yasmani Grandal in the fifth inning. It was the Sox’s fourth of the night.
“I find it fascinating that I’ve given up all but one run on homers this year,” Lester said. “So, obviously need to fix that.”
Lester allowed eight runs in less than four innings against the White Sox, all on homers. That was more runs than he’d given up in his four previous starts combined (7).
“I think last start I thought I threw the ball better than what the line score showed,” Lester said. “This one, I can’t run from the line score. This was terrible.”
To start the season, the veteran southpaw had a steadying effect on an overperforming Cubs rotation. He allowed just two runs in his first three starts of the season.
Both he and the Cubs hit a rough patch early this week. Lester gave up five runs to the Brewers in a one-run loss, but he still pushed through six innings.
Meanwhile, the Cubs scrambled to fill in for Tyler Chatwood, who went to the 10-day injured list with mid-back strain, in a week with two double-headers.
But after scraping together a 3-2 series win against the Cardinals, the Cubs had their three best pitchers in line to face the White Sox over the weekend. The Cubs rotation still entered play Friday with the sixth best ERA in Major League Baseball.
Sure, the matchup wasn’t good for Lester. The White Sox had already established how dangerous their lineup was against left-handed pitching. They were 6-0 against left-handed starters entering the game. Their team .943 OPS against southpaws was the best in baseball.
“Jonny’s got hit work cut out for him tonight, for sure,” Cubs manager David Ross said before the game.
It all started with a fastball up and in to White Sox rookie Luis Robert in the second inning. The 23-year-old introduced himself to the Crosstown Classic with a two-run homer.
The next inning it was a three-run bomb by Jose Abreu on a curveball. Then, in the fourth, a solo shot from Danny Mendick on a cutter. And finally, a two-run home run by Grandal on a fastball.
“Lester, he's going to compete,” Grandal said. “He's not going to give it to you. He's going to come at you. And the fact that we were able to stick to a plan against him and capitalize when he made a few mistakes, the little mistakes that he made, it's always a plus.”
After the game, Lester searched for an explanation. He’d like to get his cutter back before his next outing, but the White Sox had squared up every one of his pitches. So, there had to be more to it.
Maybe he was coming out of his delivery early and showing the ball? Or could he have just made that many mistakes?
“I can’t really give you a definite answer tonight,” Lester said. “I would have liked to.”
That work will begin Saturday. Luckily for the Cubs, they’ll have a right-hander on the mound against the White Sox then.