Tag Archives: Jon Lester

Levine: Cubs Turn To Jon Lester In Hopes Of Evening NLCS

By Bruce Levine– LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Being down a game to the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series is nothing new to the Cubs, who trailed 2-1 when the teams squared off in 2016 with a trip to the World Series on the line. This time, the Cubs face a deficit earlier in the series after falling 5-2 in the NLCS opener in Los Angeles on Saturday night. To even the series, the Cubs are looking for the resiliency they’ve displayed time and again and also a strong outing from left-hander Jon Lester, who will start Game 2 on Sunday evening. The Dodgers counter with left-hander Rich Hill, a former Cub. Lester is 9-7 with a 2.57 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 24 career postseason appearances, and that wins mark is second-best among active pitchers. He threw 55 pitches in 3 2/3 innings of relief in Game 4 of the NL Division Series on Wednesday, but Lester isn’t concerned about that workload having any tiring effects after getting three days off. “I’m not worried about it,” Lester said. “I mean, it was just like work in between. I just got to do it in a game instead of on the side. So I don’t think it’s a problem. This time of year, you have to adjust and figure it out. We’ll do that.” Lester also hopes the Cubs’ offense picks it up. Excluding their nine-run outburst in Game 5 of the NLDS, the Cubs have averaged just 2.0 runs in their other five playoff games. Of course, his goal is to render the Dodgers scoreless. “You have to try and hold back momentum the best you can,” Lester said. “You can’t let those guys string hits together. You have to limit long at-bats, foul balls, stuff like that. So you are going to try and control that. You see these guys feed off of that energy, especially here at Dodger Stadium. If you can keep that down as best you can, I think it gives you a chance.” Lester relishes the playoffs, where he has 20 career starts, second-most among active pitchers. Teammate John Lackey has 23 career postseason starts. “The biggest thing for us is the experience,” Lester said of the Cubs, who have been to the NLCS three straight times now. “We learned a lot last year. I think we were down last year when we came in here. We were also down in the World Series. So we know we can come back in big situations.” Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

Overjoyed Jon Lester Could Hardly Watch Cubs Close Out Game 5 Win

(CBS) Cubs left-hander Jon Lester wasn’t available to pitch in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, but the nerves of a wild contest got to him. When the Cubs called upon closer Wade Davis to record a seven-out save and hold a 9-7 lead, Lester couldn’t even watch. What did he think of the performance by Davis? “I don’t know, I blacked out,” Lester said to NBC Sports Chicago as he took a drink of champagne amid the postgame celebration. “I have no idea. I watched literally, probably, three outs of it. I have a problem in postseason games actually watching the game in the dugout. I watched the last three outs in the dugout, and it was awesome. He did a great job the last three outs. The other four, I have no idea what happened.”

Lester missed out as Davis allowed a run in the eighth inning but escaped after a video review ruled that Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton had his foot slide off first base on a pickoff play. The Cubs went to the ninth inning with a 9-8 lead. Davis held strong with a one-two-three ninth inning, finishing Game 5 with a strikeout of Bryce Harper. From there, the Cubs began their celebration before headed out to Los Angeles and beginning the NL Championship Series against the Dodgers. As the celebration continued on in the Cubs’ clubhouse, Lester requested a beer instead of champagne and was rudely granted his wish.

Levine: Keeping Trea Turner Off Base A Big Focus For Cubs In Game 2

By Bruce Levine– WASHINGTON D.C. (CBS) — Prior to Game 1 on Friday evening, manager Dusty Baker reminded that his Nationals can run, and that’s what they intended to do against the Cubs. That was all well and good, except for the fact that Washington managed just seven baserunners against Kyle Hendricks and two relievers in a 3-0 loss in falling behind 1-0 in the National League Division Series. What Baker wants in Game 3 on Saturday afternoon is lead-off man Trea Truner, he of 46 stolen bases in the regular season, to wreak havoc on Cubs left-hander Jon Lester, who has a long history of difficulty in holding runners on. Turner was neutralized in Game 1, grounding out twice and striking out twice. The whole baseball world knows Lester can be run on because of his disdain for throwing to bases. What opposing teams don’t necessarily understand is that Lester usually clocks in at 1.2 seconds from his mid-delivery to home plate, one of the quickest times of any pitcher in the game. With the cannon arm of catcher Willson Contreras, it helps the Cubs negate opposing running games. “I do expect a lot of aggressiveness out there from them,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Turner is exceptional. They have other guys that can run as well. The best defense is to keep them off base to begin with. We have our methods and will try to incorporate them.” Part of the Cubs’ plan to keep Nationals baserunners honest will be for Contreras to throw behind them. The Nationals could also incorporate bunting into their game plan, though that would be a sacrifice for good power hitters. And Maddon doesn’t much expect bunting outside of Turner. “You look at their team,” Maddon said. “Trea Turner is a really good bunter, he will do that. There are other guys who will bunt but are not as proficient as Turner. It is not as easy to tell guys to do these things. It is the same as if you run a shift out there. Why doesn’t a guy hit the ball to the open spot? Because he can’t. Because he is not good at it, and that is why you shift in the first place.” Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks On Starting Game 1: ‘Means A Ton’ To Me

By Bruce Levine– CHICAGO (CBS) — For better or worse, the Cubs’ rotation is set for the National League Division Series. Kyle Hendricks will start against the Nationals in Game 1 on Friday and be followed, in order, by Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and Jake Arrieta. Manager Joe Maddon pointed out Wednesday that either Hendricks or Lester could start on full rest in a potential win-or-go-home Game 5 because of the two travel days built into the schedule. There was no news on whether No. 5 starter John Lackey will come out of the bullpen or be left off the NLDS roster. That news will likely come Friday morning when rosters must be finalized. “It means a ton, this whole staff is behind me,” Hendricks said of his Game 1 assignment. “That is how we roll. Any of our pitchers could be making this start. It is just about lining up the rotation.” The Cubs chose Hendricks over Lester for Game 1 based on both data and the gut feel of Maddon and their top executives. Hendricks has been the team’s best pitcher in the season’s second half, registering a 2.19 ERA in 13 starts since returning from a hand injury on July 24. The case for Lester was that he’s a big-game performance with a 2.63 ERA in 22 career playoff appearances. Lester dealt with shoulder fatigue in August and has struggled for stretches, with a 4.33 ERA this season. Quintana will pitch Game 3 on Monday at Wrigley Field, where the Cubs preferred to have him throw. Still feeling the effects of a strained right hamstring, Arrieta will have extra rest in pitching Game 4 on Tuesday. “He has pitched really well and, of course, he will be able to go in the fifth game,” Maddon said of Hendricks. “The guys who pitch in the first two games can pitch in a Game 5. We thought this was the way to go with Jake getting extra time and Quintana right in the middle.” Hendricks missed seven weeks from early June until late July because of a finger ailment on his right hand. Gaining strength back and increasing his velocity has him at the top of his game in Maddon’s mind. “He just knows how to pitch,” Maddon said. “He is not a guy who will light up the radar gun. You talk to people who are GMs and coaches, and he is their favorite to watch. He is a technician, just fun to watch. He has come from Dartmouth to almost winning a Cy Young (in 2016), really impressive. Honestly, I think he is pitching better right now than any time last year. Why? Because the velocity is better now. The other pitches he throws are working better because of the velo .I believe he is at the top of his game.” Hendricks’ career trajectory of developing into a frontline starter has surprised many. The Cubs acquired him from the Rangers in the Ryan Dempster deal at the 2012 trade deadline. “We certainly did not envision this at the time,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said of Hendricks. “He deserves a ton of credit. He is always growing. We made the trade on his makeup. That was the primary driver in the trade. We were pretty much convinced we would get the most out of what he had. We felt he would continue to keep learning. That part has come true. Now he has taken it to another level. His ability to execute pitches and compete on a very high level is impressive. He is unflappable.” Hendricks (7-5, 3.03 ERA) has performed well against the Nationals for the most part. He started once against them this season, taking a loss on Aug. 4 at Wrigley Field, going seven innings and allowing three runs, all earned, on five hits and two walks while striking out five. Bryce Harper is 4-of-13 with one homer in his career against Hendricks, while Daniel Murphy is 3-of-13 with two homers against him. “Harper is a big catalyst for them,” Hendricks said. “They have a lot of guys like that who can change games — Murphy, (Anthony) Rendon, (Ryan) Zimmerman. There are so many guys in that order who can hurt you. You must focus pitch to pitch and take the situation that is presented to you. If you have to pitch around someone, so be it. You are just taking what that game gives you.” Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

Cubs Rotation: Kyle Hendricks In Game 1, Jon Lester In Game 2, Jose Quintana In Game 3

(CBS) The man who took the ball in Game 7 of the World Series as the Cubs won the championship last season will get the ball in the playoff opener. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks has been tabbed as the Game 1 starter for Chicago as it opens at Washington on Friday night. The Cubs will start left-hander Jon Lester in Game 2 on Saturday, while left-hander Jose Quintana will follow in Game 3 on Monday and and right-hander Jake Arrieta will go in Game 4 on Tuesday, if needed. Hendricks (7-5, 3.03 ERA) started once against the Nationals this season. He took a loss on Aug. 4 at Wrigley Field, going seven innings and allowing three runs, all earned, on five hits and two walks while striking out five. Hendricks has been at his best in the second half, registering a 2.19 ERA in his 13 starts since the All-Star break. Lester (13-8, 4.33) started twice against the Nationals, recording a no-decision both times while throwing well. He had a 2.84 ERA in 12 2/3 innings against Washington. Acquired in a mid-July trade with the White Sox, Quintana (11-11, 4.15) didn’t start against the Nationals this year. He was strong down the stretch, with a 2.51 ERA in five starts in September. Arrieta’s placement in the rotation gives him extra time to recover from a right hamstring that’s still bothering him after he strained it in early September. Arrieta returned to make two starts late in the regular season. His second of those didn’t go well, as he lasted just three innings and 67 pitches and didn’t look like himself in a loss on Sept. 26. Manager Joe Maddon called it “wise” to give Arrieta extra time to rest. If the series gets to five games, Maddon added that the Cubs could choose from Hendricks or Lester to make that start. Because of the two travel days worked into the schedule, Lester could still start Game 2 and go on full rest in Game 5. The Nationals haven’t announced their Game 1 starter yet. Signs have pointed to right-hander Stephen Strasburg as right-hander Max Scherzer deals with a hamstring ailment, but Washington general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters the team will see how Scherzer reacts Wednesday and then announce its starter Thursday.

Cubs’ Joe Maddon Ponders Pitching Options For Playoffs

(CBS) As the Cubs continue to debate their postseason roster and haven’t announced their rotation, manager Joe Maddon did reveal a nugget Tuesday. Whoever gets the ball in Game 1 for the Cubs would “probably” get the start in a potential win-or-go-home Game 5 as the Cubs face the Nationals in the National League Division Series. While that’s normal protocol, the Game 2 starter could also go on full rest in Game 5 because two travels days are built into the schedule, leading to the theory the Cubs could just choose a Game 5 starter based on who threw best in the first two games. Game 1 is Friday in Washington D.C., and signs point to right-hander Kyle Hendricks and left-hander Jon Lester pitching the first two games of the series in some order. “What I’m saying is if comes back to Game 5, probably the No. 1 would pitch (Game 5), but then you’d be able to utilize No. 2 out of the bullpen quickly if necessary,” Maddon said on the Spiegel and Parkins Show on 670 The Score on Tuesday. It was in Game 7 of the World Series last November that Hendricks got the start and was relieved by Lester. That remains in the back of Maddon’s mind. Lester went three innings, allowing two runs, one earned and was sharp for the most part. “He did really well too,” Maddon said of Lester’s relief appearance in the Cubs’ wild Game 7 win to clinch the championship. “I often look back at that, and that’s one of the most understated parts of that game, was that nobody gave Jonny Lester as much credit as he deserved (in relief).” Maddon called right-hander Jake Arrieta’s progress in his rehab from a hamstring strain “good” but added that Arrieta won’t pitch in the team’s simulated game Wednesday at Wrigley Field. Instead, Arrieta will throw a side session. Maddon insisted he’s still in line to pitch in this series. Arrieta has been ruled out of starting either of the first two games. “He’s doing really well,” Maddon said.

Lester Looks Sharp As Cubs Pound Reds 9-0

CHICAGO (AP) — Jon Lester struck out seven over five innings, Kyle Schwarber hit his 30th home run and the Chicago Cubs pounded the Cincinnati Reds 9-0 on Saturday for their 15th win in 18 games. Lester (13-8) allowed four hits and walked none in a possible tuneup for Game 1 of the NL Division Series against Washington. The veteran left-hander has allowed one run in 11 innings over his past two outings after posting an 8.22 ERA in his previous five starts. Lester’s second straight win was a welcome development for the Cubs with Jake Arrieta coming back from a strained right hamstring. Kyle Hendricks also could start the playoff opener against the Nationals next Friday. The defending World Series champions continue to roll along with the playoffs approaching and their sights set on another big run. They had their top players back in the lineup after resting most of them the previous two games with their second straight NL Central title locked up. Schwarber finished with four RBIs. He hit a two-run drive in the second and a two-run single in the third against rookie Jackson Stephens. Rene Rivera came off the bench to hit a two-run single in the sixth and a solo homer in the seventh. Stephens (2-1) gave up four runs and four hits, and the last-place Reds lost for the 10th time in 11 games. Willson Contreras singled leading off the second and Schwarber drove the next pitch about halfway up the center-field bleachers, with a fan reaching out to make a neat catch. The home run was the sixth in 15 games for the slugger, who was sent to the minors after struggling early in the season. Chicago had the bases loaded in the third when Schwarber shattered his bat on a bloop single to center. That brought in Ian Happ and Kris Bryant. TRAINER’S ROOM Reds: SS Zack Cozart (right quadriceps tightness) was held out of the lineup after playing on Friday. “It wasn’t 100 percent yesterday,” manager Bryan Price said. “I really want him to be able to play tomorrow.” Cubs: Arrieta will throw a simulated game Wednesday, as will healthy LHP Jose Quintana. Though manager Joe Maddon was not ready to announce his rotation for the NLDS, they would figure to start Game 3 and Game 4, if necessary, at Wrigley Field. UP NEXT Left-hander Mike Montgomery (7-8, 3.45 ERA) starts the finale for the Cubs with Arrieta resting for the playoffs, while right-hander Deck McGuire (0-1, 4.15 ERA) makes his second career start for the Reds. (© 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.)

Levine: Cubs Could Include All 5 Starters On NLDS Roster

By Bruce Levine– CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s rare to see five starting pitchers included on a team’s 25-man roster for a playoff series, but the Cubs find themselves in a unique situation that might necessitate it. With the playoffs starting next week, the Cubs’ top two pitchers aren’t anywhere near top form. Left-hander Jon Lester hit the disabled list in mid-August with shoulder fatigue and has struggled for much of the second half. Right-hander Jake Arrieta strained his right hamstring in early September and has in his second start since returning looked tentative in only going three innings in a loss Tuesday. Arrieta’s schedule start Sunday has been cancelled in favor of a simulated game and more rest. Because of that, the Cubs are considering including all five of their rotation members — specifically No. 5 starter John Lackey — on the National League Division Series roster. Normally, teams include four starters. “It is possible,” manager Joe Maddon said Friday. “It is definitely possible to see all of them involved. Of course, somebody would have to be a part of the bullpen, but it is possible.” Maddon, pitching coach Chris Bosio and executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will meet Monday to determine a rotation configuration. The smart money is on right-hander Kyle Hendricks starting Game 1 against the Nationals next Friday and left-hander Jose Quintana following in Game 2. That would buck conventional wisdom, which would have veterans and big-game performers in Lester and Arrieta getting the ball early in the series. This doesn’t seem like that kind of year, though. Lester and Arrieta have issues to work through and haven’t proved to be as reliable as Hendricks and Quintana lately. And this is no time for sentimentality. Hendricks has a 2.19 ERA in the second half of the season, while Quintana had a 1.63 ERA in September before his start against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon. Lackey will also have a decent shot of being on the NLDS roster. The Cubs were 12-2 in his last 14 starts of the regular season, and he could come out of the bullpen as a long reliever — and also serve as insurance should Arrieta have a setback for any reason. Still, there’s some doubt surrounding the effectiveness of Lackey coming out of the bullpen and being fully warmed up. After Maddon utilized Lackey out of the bullpen in the 2016 season, Lackey hit the DL with a sore shoulder. Left-hander Mike Montgomery was a lifesaver for the Cubs in the 2016 playoffs, and he’ll be ready for any role this October. “I have not thrown two consecutive days very often this season,” Montgomery said. “I will be ready for whatever they ask me to do. My arm feels fine.” Wade Davis, Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, Brian Duensing and Montgomery are locks to be in the Cubs bullpen. Lefty reliever Justin Wilson is on the bubble but will be in if the Cubs want three left-handers. If Lackey is included, righty reliever Justin Grimm would most likely be the odd man out. If Arrieta is healthy, the rotation could look like this, in order; Hendricks, Quintana, Arrieta and then Lester. That would put Hendricks in line to start a win-or-go-home Game 5 with Lackey on standby status for the whole series. Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

Joe Maddon Not Looking Ahead To Cubs’ Playoff Rotation But Praises Jon Lester, Jose Quintana

(CBS) The Cubs’ playoff rotation remains a mystery, in part because they haven’t yet clinched the NL Central and in part because ace left-hander Jon Lester has had some September struggles. But manager Joe Maddon will reveal this much: He’s got the utmost confidence in Lester finding his form, as he did in a 10-2 win against the Cardinals on Monday night, when he threw six innings of one-run ball. Lester is 12-8 with a 4.46 ERA and 1.34 WHIP on the season, with a 4.94 ERA in September after a stint on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue. “Just got to see good health,” Maddon said of Lester on the Spiegel and Parkins Show on 670 The Score on Tuesday. “I think we saw that the last three times out. Last night’s game, he got better in the fifth and sixth inning. He’s done that several times this year, more recently, where he’s gotten better in the latter part of the game. Listen, I have no idea yet what we’re going to do. We have to win one more game (ton clinch the division), and then we’ll set it up. Jon Lester is a proven commodity, man, so I’m not worried about him.” Maddon also expressed confidence in starting left-hander Jose Quintana at home or on the road come playoff time. The game location won’t play a factor in when the Cubs plan to use Quintana, he said. Quintana is 7-3 with 3.50 ERA and 1.09 WHIP since being acquired from the White Sox in mid-July. “It’s probably going to be more set up based on the other team and what we perceive to be who’s pitching best for us in the moment,” Maddon said, speaking of the rotation generally. “There are different ways to match up. I have faith in Jose in both places. I have no issues with anything. I think he’s officially a Cub now. He firmly feels accepted and he feels much more comfortable in his Cubs skin. I have no issues with him pitching at Wrigley or anywhere else.”

Cubs Adjust Rotation, Will Start Mike Montgomery On Tuesday

(CBS) The Cubs have tweaked their rotation at the start of a 10-game road trip. Chicago will pitch left-hander Mike Montgomery on Tuesday at Tampa Bay instead of left-hander Jon Lester, who’s been moved back a day and will get the ball Wednesday to conclude the short two-game series. Montgomery had been in the bullpen since the middle of last week but is getting another start after rookie Jen-Ho Tseng was hit hard in his debut last Thursday and as right-hander Jake Arrieta remains out for a few more days. The Cubs haven’t announced their rotation past Wednesday, but their hope is for Arrieta to return at some point in the four-game series at Milwaukee that starts Thursday. By inserting Montgomery into the rotation and pitching Lester on Wednesday, the Cubs can also line up more of their right-handed starters to face the Brewers, which they prefer to do for matchup reasons, and give Lester the ball to start at four-game series at St. Louis next Monday. The Cubs lead the Brewers by four games in the NL Central and the Cardinals by six.