Don’t You Dare Hang This Loss on Jon Lester
The box score attributed the loss in Sunday’s game to Jon Lester, but if you allow that designation to drive your assessment of the lefty, I suggest you consider poking yourself with a sharp stick. Repeatedly. I don’t really care where and I don’t want to advocate grievous bodily harm, but you do owe yourself a little mortification of the flesh as an act of expiation for your transgressions. I’m sure that doesn’t apply to anyone reading this right now, though, does it?
Nah, you all know that a guy who went 7 1/3 and gave up only one run on four hits and two walks is the last person toward whom fingers of blame should be pointed. Lester was on point, however, striking out 10 Rockies and keeping the Cubs in a game they just didn’t seem to want to win. Sure, he gave up a home run to Nolan Arenado, a man who led the NL in with 42 dingers in 2015. But the ball barely snuck into the basket in left and was the only extra-base hit the Cubs starter allowed all afternoon.
There was also this…
So, yeah, I’d be upset with my 7-year-old if he made a throw like that. Still, it’s a total no-harm, no-foul situation because Anthony Rizzo saved his pitcher’s bacon and they got the out. Lester was nails otherwise, even hitting a leadoff double in the 6th that the Cubs promptly squandered. This guy’s only going to get, like, one more base knock all season and they didn’t even give him the courtesy of letting him score a run. Given the lineup in question, that’s simply unacceptable.
It wasn’t just that inning, either. The Cubs had only two other hits, only one of which — a single from Javier Baez that broke up Tyler Chatwood’s no-hitter — actually came with Lester on the mound. Jason Heyward doubled in the 9th, though he experienced a fate similar to his pitcher as yet another fake rally fell short.
I don’t care what name on the back of the jersey reads, any pitcher who goes out there and gives up only one run deserves to win. If his teammates can’t tally a run or two of their own, that’s on them. And Sunday’s loss rests quite squarely on the broad shoulders of the Cubs hitters. Sure, home plate umpire Vic Carapazza was giving Chatwood a zone that even Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were jealous of. It was far from an ump show though, and I’m not about to allow blue to bear any responsibility.
Thing is, signing that big free agent deal last winter put a target on Lester’s back that far too many have readily embraced. I don’t think that’s what Joe Maddon meant. A start like this should have gone a long way toward erasing fallacious accounts of Lester’s efficacy, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that it may have actually added fuel to them. Even summarizing the effort with something along the lines of “Lester was really good, but…” is to do him a disservice.
LL Cool J would have left his girlfriend for a but that big, man. There’s really no way to explain this game that doesn’t somehow echo the idea that the Cubs absolutely let their number two starter down. You get an effort like that from anyone, you chalk it up as a win. Unfortunately, the clubhouse attendants must have replaced the bats with erasers.
Maybe no one out there is actually laying this at Lackey’s feet or insinuating that he bore even a sliver of blame for the loss. Maybe I’m just shouting into the void, which might still be the case either way. I sure hope that’s the case. That no one’s perpetuating bad narratives, that is, not that I’m typing just to hear myself type. Experience tells me that probably isn’t the case though.
I’ll take Sunday’s start from Lester every day of the week and twice on, well, Sunday. We only got it once, however, and the Cubs couldn’t make it stand up. My sincere hope is that we don’t see the reverse the next time the big southpaw takes the bump, as the resultant outcry would be maddening. Oh well, no reason to complain proactively. Lester has been great, he’ll be great again, and he’s worth the money he’s being paid. And at this point I kinda wouldn’t mind seeing thoughts to the contrary flushed down the john.