By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Cubs left-hander Jon Lester continued his trek toward 20 wins and a possible Cy Young award Tuesday night, as he was once again at the top of his game in throwing seven strong innings of one-run ball in a 6-1 victory against the Reds at Wrigley Field.
Lester (18-4) limited Cincinnati to six hits and lowered his ERA to 2.36, the second-best mark in the big leagues behind teammate Kyle Hendricks (2.06).
For one scary moment in the sixth inning, it looked like Lester could be seriously injured. A line drive off the bat of Reds first baseman Joey Votto struck him on the right wrist. Veteran Davis Ross, Lester’s personal catchers, was asked his first thought when he saw his friend get hit by the liner.
“There goes my job,” Ross quipped. “I knew it wasn’t his throwing hand and that he is a tough guy. I was very happy he stayed in.”
As Lester continues to register great outings, the tough choice between starting him or Hendricks in the Cubs’ playoff opener on Oct. 7 appears to be leaning Lester’s way. Could the Cy Young conversation be tilting his way too? Maybe.
“It would be a huge, huge honor,” Lester said about being considered for the Cy Young. “I have been in consideration a couple of times. To even be mentioned in that talk is a huge honor. It is very humbling.”
Being the great pitcher and teammate he was billed as is why the Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer outhustled and outbid numerous teams for the services of Lester in late 2014 in free agency. After defeating the Reds on Tuesday evening, Lester once again showed why he’s the class act he’s known as in the game when explaining who he’d vote for in the NL Cy Young race.
“Obviously Kyle has had an unbelievable year,” Lester said. “If I had a vote, he would be my vote. I get to see him every day. I see what he does and how he prepares. He is my guy. That is who I would vote for right now. At the end of the day, if you ask anybody in that clubhouse, the awards are great, but we all want to win a World Series and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now all we have to do is go out and play good baseball.”
Lester hasn’t lost a game since July 3, a stretch that spans 13 starts over which he’s 9-0 with four no-decisions. He’s 4-0 with a 0.58 ERA in four September starts.
The NL Cy Young race is between Lester, Hendricks, Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer, Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner and Giants right-hander Johnny Cueto. Lester leads the NL with 18 wins and should get two more starts this season.
This could end up being Lester’s best statistical season. His career-best marks for wins is 19 in 2010, and his lowest ERA is 2.46 in 2014 in time split between the Red Sox and Athletics.
“The individual stuff is great,” Lester said. “I will trade in all the All-Star Games and awards for a World Series trophy in a heartbeat.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.