'Old crusty' Lester gives lesson after Cubs' victory
If there really is an old school, Jon Lester would be the perfect principal.
The first thing the Cubs' ace left-hander would do would be to tell your advanced statistics to shut up. Lester gave a verbal dissertation of what he thinks of advanced stats after last week's start at Wrigley Field.
He was more than happy to do some more graduate work on that following Wednesday's 2-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field.
All those numbers are nice, but Lester is a ballplayer, and with the Cubs needing a good start in the worst way, he went out and did what he does best: He pitched.
Lester worked into to the seventh inning and left after the wind carried a high flyball by A.J. Pollock over the wall in left field for a leadoff game-tying homer.
The Cubs came back with a run in the bottom of the eighth inning, thanks to a pair of throwing errors, to win the third game of this four-game series after the D'Backs had taken the first two.
After the game, Lester was there again for the analytics crowd after just a little prompting.
"I think perfect example is today," said Lester, whose record held at 12-3 with his ERA falling from 3.14 to 3.06. "Forty-two degrees (launch angle) on a home run is supposedly not a home run. Wow. I already yelled at our guys in here for that.
"Baseball's baseball. It's been played for however long, 120 years or whatever, and it's always going to be the same. You rely on your defense as a pitcher, and somehow we get punished for that. Obviously, strikeouts are great. We can go back to the '90s and 'chicks dig the longball' and 'chicks dig the strikeouts' and all this other stuff, but at the end of the day, it's about winning the baseball game. And if you're winning the baseball game, that's all that matters.
"I don't care if you gave up 27 hard-hit outs, it's 27 outs and you threw a perfect game. So move on. It doesn't matter. I think when guys pitch well, there needs to be a justification for it. When guys don't pitch well, they also seem to look at the numbers in front of them. It's funny. I've been a part of both. You guys know my take on both of them. I guess I'm just the old crusty school guy that keeps running out."
With that, Lester dismissed the postgame class.
The game itself was a nice duel between Lester and D'Backs lefty Robbie Ray, who worked 7 innings. He gave up a run in the fourth as Albert Almora Jr. led off with his second double of the game and scored on a single by Ben Zobrist.
Pollock hit his homer starting the seventh, prompting Cubs manager Joe Maddon to bring in Carl Edwards Jr. (3-1) to pitch. Edwards worked 2 perfect innings, giving way to Pedro Strop, who earned his fourth save.
The bottom of the eighth started with an infield single by pinch hitter Javier Baez, who was playing on wounded knee, the result of a hard slide by the D'Backs' Steven Souza the previous night.
Baez made it to second base on a throwing error by relief pitcher T.J. McFarland.
"I felt a pinch when I was coming out of the box, but it's kind of like a bruise and it tickles at the same time, so I know it' nothing bad, but it's pretty swollen," Baez said.
Maddon sent pitcher Tyler Chatwood to run for Baez. After Ian Happ walked, pinch hitter Jason Heyward grounded into a 4-6 forceout, with shortstop Nick Ahmed throwing the ball over the first-base dugout for an error that allowed Chatwood to score the go-ahead run.
But the story of the day was Lester, who gave the Cubs a quality start when they have been hard to come by.
"He's the reason why we won," said center fielder Albert Almora Jr., who made a diving catch of Ahmed's liner in the second. "He kept us in there. At the end of the day, it was a flyball that went out, but we picked him up, and we won the game."