Justin Dukes covers the Chicago Cubs and their developments for WARR.com
Describing his pitching in the Chicago Cubs’ Wednesday loss to the Tampa Bay Rays as a “lack of command,” starting pitcher Jon Lester definitely did not resemble himself.
While an obvious answer for Lester would’ve been to point to rust from being inactive from his recent shoulder issue, he had the right mind to adopt a no excuse mentality, especially with the season’s end just around the corner.
“We’re not going to make excuses and say that’s why I didn’t throw the ball well. Physically, it’s September. You’re going to have ups and downs. I feel fine,” Lester expressed to ESPN.
In a similar tone, manager Joe Maddon expressed his uncertainty on Lester’s struggles, but maintained a “this too shall pass” calm demeanor.
With most of the numbers since Lester’s return pointing to a higher hitting percentage by opponents when he uses the fastball, there are obviously adjustments to be made. However, with an identical velocity to his pre-injury fast ball showing on radar, the real issue is in the control of Lester’s fastball, which becomes a bit more of a tricky adjustment to make.
Lester suffered through a rare outing without a strikeout against the Rays, just one of many issues on a night where the team ended a seven-game win streak, but the Cubs are still optimistic moving forward.
“We got the split here, which is good. Moving forward you’ve got to beat ’em straight-up sometimes and that’s what we’re going to have to do.” said Maddon to the collected media in Tampa.
Now in their final face-off of the regular season, the Cubs will be squaring off against the division rival Milwaukee Brewers in four games starting tonight. The Brew Crew are still trailing the defending champs by 3.5 games, a cushion that should hold up for the Cubs to close out the season but anything is possible and the last thing the North Siders need to let happen is to seep back into mediocrity with a losing series this weekend.
After losing out on the chance to tie the Colorado Rockies for second place in the NL Wild Card to the Pirates, the Brewers — currently a game out of the final playoff spot — will presumably be eager to right the ship against the Cubs. With pitcher Jimmy Nelson now out for the season (and presumably most of 2018), the Brewers are facing their own dilemma at the most important position for October success, and they couldn’t come up with answers fast enough to do away with Pittsburgh.
Having swept the Cubs earlier this month, pulling off a second sweep would be just what the Brewers need and would land them first place in the division deeper than anyone could have imagined them doing so this season.
The Brewers have gone through 13 starting pitchers this season, the Cubs have to capitalize on that situation and string together a steady stream of hits to give themselves their best chance at maintaining first place in the NL Central.
Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio; Justin Dukes is a Chicago-based sports writer, follow him on Twitter @1kingzdream.