Don’t count out Jon Lester to have a big impact on the Cubs down the stretch and into October.
Lester bounced back from a rough streak of starts on Friday, matching Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff, who took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, pitch for pitch. The veteran lefty delivered his best outing of the season, a positive sign for the Cubs.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, Milwaukee won the pitching duel, securing a 1-0 walk-off win. But as October looms, Lester could be the answer the Cubs are looking for in the rotation behind Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks.
Some quick takes from the 1-0 Brewers win.
Don’t count out Jon
Entering Friday, Lester held a 9.26 ERA over his past five starts, dating back to Aug. 16 against Milwaukee. He spoke of confidence issues this past Sunday, when he allowed five earned runs in 3 1/3 innings.
He bounced back from that rough skid in a big way Friday. The 36-year-old pitched six shutout innings, allowing just three hits and two walks, striking out eight — a season high and most since last Sept. 3 (nine) against Seattle.
Milwaukee had a prime chance to take the game’s first lead amidst the pitching duel in the fifth. Lester walked the leadoff man and Avi Garcia dropped a bloop single into right field to give Milwaukee first and third with one out.
After a caught stealing for the second out, Lester dropped a 2-2 changeup to Keston Hiura down and away, letting out a passionate roar after Hiura swung and missed to end the threat.
"It seems like this season, I'll get into situations and not pitch out of them," Lester said. "It was nice to pitch out of some jams and match zeros with the guy across the way.
"That was a big out for us in that situation. To keep putting up zeros there was big."
More outings like Friday from Lester will add certainty to the rotation, currently without Tyler Chatwood and José Quintana, ahead of the postseason.
"He is going to be a guy we need with all the injuries we have and being thin in the starting rotation," manager David Ross said. "I know he expects great things from himself. We expect good things from him.
"It really is uplifting I think for him not to be so frustrated. When you’re kind of searching and lost, it’s tough to go out there and compete. Tonight, he looked like himself and was able to compete freely."
Ring ‘em up
If you’re a fan of action-packed offense, Friday’s game probably wasn’t for you.
The Cubs and Brewers combined to strike out 27 times, 16 by Cubs hitters. Seven of those 16 were of the looking variety.
The only run came on a sac fly by Ryan Braun in the ninth, which was set up by a leadoff walk and bloop single to right field surrendered by Rowan Wick.
The Cubs tallied two hits — a leadoff single by Ian Happ in the sixth and two-out triple by Kris Bryant in the eighth.
With two strikeouts on Friday, Cubs right-hander Craig Kimbrel has at least two punch outs in 10 straight outings. No Cub has done that since at least 1901.
Kimbrel broke Hall of Famer Lee Smith’s record on Wednesday. Smith held the previous record with eight straight outings, accomplished from Aug. 20-Sept. 10, 1983.
He said it
“I think the work he’s put in, in between his last start, I think will pay off in this game tonight.” –Ross on Lester pregame.
The Cubs and Brewers meet again Saturday at Miller Park. First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. Kyle Hendricks (5-4, 3.41 ERA) and former Cub Brett Anderson (2-3, 4.64 ERA) are the probable starters.
With the Cardinals' 3-1 loss to the Reds, the Cubs maintain a three-game lead in the NL Central.