It’s safe to say that 33-year-old Jon Lester is struggling for the Chicago Cubs this season.
The potential future Hall of Famer has started 19 games for the Cubs and has posted a 4.25 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and has given up 108 hits in 108.0 innings with 110 strikeouts and 37 walks to go along with a 5-6 record.
On Sunday, however, Lester had one of the worst starts of his entire career against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
En route to a 14-3 loss in front of the home Wrigley Field crowd, Lester didn’t get out of the first inning, officially ending with the embarrassing line of 0.2 innings pitched while allowing six hits, 10 runs (four earned) and two home runs. He also walked three batters and didn’t strike anyone out.
While his defense didn’t help him out, committing two errors behind him, it was clear from the start that Lester was off of his game from the first pitch. Chicago trailed 10-0 heading into the bottom of the first, which made it virtually impossible to make a comeback.
Lester became just the fourth pitcher in the last 100 years to allow 10 or more runs and not make it out of the first inning.
It was also the first time of his career in which he hasn’t made it out of the first, which is astounding given the number of starts that he’s made over the years.
His previous shortest start came last season, thus bringing up the idea that he’s regressing due to either age, wear-and-tear or both factors.
“I don’t know what to say,” Lester said after the game, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s embarrassing.”
“There’s never a good time to have a bad start. The second pitch of the game I thought I threw well, and they hit a laser,” he added. “Nothing I can say can justify or give you a reason behind today.”
Kris Bryant, who made one of the errors in the first inning, was upset hearing his pitcher get booed by the home crowd when he was pulled from the game.
"I don't understand it," Bryant said in the locker room after the game. "(He was) a big part of the team last year. It's easy to forget sometimes what you do last year because this game is all about what you're doing now. We realize that but that was tough. It should have been me.”
In many ways, Lester’s confusing performance was indicative of the defending champion Cubs’ position at the All-Star break. Last year, they were 53-35 at the break and this year, they’re two games below .500 at 43-45. They’re now tied with the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central and trail the first-place Milwaukee Brewers by 5.5 games.
“We’re not happy,” manager Joe Maddon said after the game. “Of course our guys are frustrated, but that’s normal human nature. But nobody’s quitting or giving up. We have to start getting better starting pitching and get our situational hitting back in order.”
"I think people just want to get away from this, get away from the grind," Lester said to reporters, via the Chicago Tribune. "It's not for a lack of effort, it's not for a lack of preparation but for whatever reason it is what it is.
"We have to … take four days, regroup, refresh and show up on Friday ready to go. The big thing for us is to forget the record, forget our batting averages or ERAs or win-loss (records) and just get back to playing good, sound baseball and the talent on this team will speak for itself,” Lester said.
The veteran pitcher will look to rebound in his next start, as the Cubs will attempt to regroup in the hopes of making another postseason run.
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