I don’t want Jon Lester’s performance last night to get lost in the shuffle of an 18-inning marathon loss (even though it is funny to think that the Cubs played 11 more innings even after he’d departed the game).
On the night, Lester threw 7.0 innings, allowing one earned run on three hits and two walks, and he struck out nine. It was easily his best outing of the year from my perspective, not only in the results, but also in how he looked. You know how Jon Lester, at his best, simply looks like he knows exactly where he wants to put a pitch and then puts it there? He was doing that last night, and the Yankees were largely befuddled.
Lester netted 16 whiffs in the game (most this season), including 7 on the curveball – the most he’s gotten in a single game with the Cubs on that pitch. Earlier this year, we talked about Lester’s lack of swinging strikes, which would be a concerning indicator about this stuff/command/velocity. We mentioned, though, that it was down for him last April, too, “so perhaps it’s just a matter of warming up.” And, hey, what do you know: after last night, Lester’s swinging strike rate is up to 10.5%, basically the same as his first two years with the Cubs (10.4%, 10.3%).
Last night’s outing dropped Lester’s ERA/FIP/xFIP line to 3.27/3.55/3.74, for which the ERA is far from his figure last year (2.44), but the FIP (3.41) and xFIP (3.47) are getting much closer.
On the year, Lester is also the only Cubs pitcher who shows up on this list:
Which pitchers allow the least amount of hard-hit contact?
This is an amusing list. First few names include some "duh" and some stunners pic.twitter.com/YCUOoIYym5
— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) May 8, 2017
All in all, Lester has been largely Lester-like for the Cubs overall this year, with the needle definitely pointing up (or, well, down, if you’re using a pitching-runs-allowed-type metaphor).
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