By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Cubs left-hander Jon Lester had a night he won’t forget in his team’s 16-4 win against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.
It was an evening of strange occurrences, as the Cubs’ offense exploded in their 14th win in 17 games since the All-Star break, but Lester couldn’t get a victory himself in only going four-plus inning. What Lester did record was his first career big league homer and his 2,000th career strikeout.
Lester was once again pitching with a heavy heart. In a tribute to his uncle who recently passed away and whose services will be held Wednesday, Lester had “PLACT” printed on his cap — “Play like a champion today,” a favorite phrase of Notre Dame, which his uncle attended.
For his part, Lester ran out of gas after 104 pitches and without recording an out in the fifth inning. He exited with the Cubs leading 8-1, and his final line showed three runs allowed, all earned, on five hits and three walks while striking out nine in those four-plus innings.
“Jon was good,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “They just kept fouling off pitches. That first at-bat (of the game) by (David) Peralta was outstanding. He should have easily gone six innings today, but I had to take him out. His stuff had dropped off significantly. His cutter was at 85 mph. I had never seen his cutter at 85 mph.”
Lester credited Arizona.
“They hit a lot of foul balls,” Lester said. “Weird game. The way I felt didn’t match the results. We won the game, so who really cares about that stuff. The 12/13-pitch at-bat to lead off the game (hurt). I threw a lot of good pitches and finally got him out. Seems like when they did make contact, they got a hit. Either a strikeout or walk were the other results. Weird, weird game on the pitching side. It just didn’t match up all the way.”
Lester joked about having to negotiate with a fan who caught his first career home run, a two-run blast in the third inning off Patrick Corbin.
“I guess I have to go through that shenanigan right now,” he said about the fan waiting with his home run ball. “I am one hell of a people person. Now I have to go out there and shake hands. This should be interesting.”
Lester became the 25th left-hander in MLB history with 2,000 career strikeouts.
“That is something really cool,” he said. “I can celebrate that tonight and then go on to the next one. When my career is all said and done, I will be able to enjoy everything and go back over it again. For me, it would be to just let my kids know I was all right at my job.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.