The Cubs finished Saturday's loss at the Nationals under protest after Joe Maddon saw what he believed to be an inconsistency in how illegal pitches are being called.
Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle came in to close the game out in the ninth with the Nats up 5-2. After one pitch, Maddon went to the umpires to complain. This dragged on throughout the inning.
Maddon didn't like that Doolittle's delivery involved him pausing and potentially even touching the ground in the middle of his wind up before coming home with the pitch. To Maddon, it was clearly an illegal pitch and he was fired up because that's something Carl Edwards Jr. got called for earlier in the season. By comparison, Edwards' version may be more deliberate, but Maddon thinks it is the same thing.
"That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do," Maddon said postgame in a video posted by ESPN's Jesse Rogers. "There's no judgment. If he taps the ground, it's an illegal pitch, period. There's nothing to judge. You can judge whether he did or not. It's obvious that he did, or if you can't tell that then there's something absolutely wrong."
Maddon and the Cubs protested the game as a result. If they win the protest, the game would be restarted with one out in the ninth, when Maddon notified the umpires of the protest.
Doolittle was less than amused by Maddon's protest.
From crew chief Sam Holbrook: "In our judgement, [Doolittle] did absolutely nothing illegal at all.”— Jamal Collier (@JamalCollier) May 19, 2019
Also there was no review, they just wanted to let NY know the game was being played under protest and double-check rules. Following protocol.
"I have no qualms against Doolittle," Maddon said. "He's great, but they took it away from our guy so for me to sit in the dugout and permit that to happen while they stripped us of that ability earlier this year with Carl, how could I do that? You can't do that. I got to say something."
Jon Lester was on a heck of a run since coming off the IL in late April, but it came to a screeching halt on Saturday.
Lester had by far his worst start of the season at the Nationals in a 5-2 Cubs loss. He labored through his start, giving up five runs in 4 1/3 innings.
Lester gave up 10 hits, which matches the most he has given up since joining the Cubs. He gave up a fair number of hits in his last two starts, but was able to avoid trouble on the scoreboard. Lester gave up nine hits in 6 2/3 innings against the Brewers last time out, but only gave up an unearned run. On May 7, Lester gave up eight hits to the Marlins, but only allowed two unearned runs in six innings of work.
This time, Lester couldn’t stay out of trouble. Brian Dozier got the Nats on the board with a solo shot in the second and then the wheels came off in the third.
To open the third inning Lester gave up six straight hits. The Nats got three runs that inning and then added another in the fifth, when Lester departed the game.
Since Lester came off the IL on April 25, he had allowed just one earned run (four runs in total) in 24 2/3 innings. During that stretch, he had 25 strikeouts against just two walks. His ERA fell to 1.16, which would have led all of baseball if he had enough innings to qualify. It’s at 2.09 after Saturday’s loss.