Lester haunted by lack of command


Lester haunted by lack of command

By DannyPicard

BOSTON -- @font-face font-family: "Times New Roman";p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; a:link, span.MsoHyperlink color: blue; text-decoration: underline; a:visited, span.MsoHyperlinkFollowed color: purple; text-decoration: underline; table.MsoNormalTable font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; div.Section1 page: Section1; Jon Lester will go back to the drawing board, but he wonthave to re-invent the wheel after Monday nights 7-3 loss to the Chicago WhiteSox at Fenway Park.

Lester allowed a season-high seven earned runs in sufferinghis second loss of the season. And the hot topic after his latest rough outingwas the leftys command.

It was one of those nights where I just battled myself,said Lester. I couldnt get in a rhythm. The ball was up. When I actually didthrow it over the plate, it was up.

Tonight, I really just didnt have a feel for anything. Istunk. Theres no other way to put it.

Lester allowed eight hits and a solo home run, but the mostconcerning numbers were his four walks and two hit batsmen. But even moreconcerning than those command issues was the fact that Lester was getting awayfrom what makes him shine.

According to Terry Francona, Lester was throwing far too many cutters. Its a devastatingpitch, when he uses it at the right time. But his overuse of the cutter hasbeen progressing over time, according to Francona.

Hes gotten into a little bit of a mode, where, his cutteris so good, but hes throwing a lot of them, said Francona. Weve got to gethim back to establishing fastball, changeup, breaking ball, and using thatcutter to put people away.

Its just getting to the point where its been a little bitmore and more. I mean, it is a great pitch, but hes throwing a lot of them.So, well go back to the drawing board a little bit, and have a good side withpitching coach Curt Young.

Ironically enough, it was a flat cutter that ended hisnight, but by no means was Alexei Ramirez bloop double to shallow right fielda frozen rope.

The game was tied at 3-3 in the top of the sixth, and Lesterwalked lefty Juan Pierre to load the bases with two outs. Ramirez then took acutter the other way, and dropped a ball just over the head of Adrian Gonzalezand barely to the left of the right-field line.

That scored two runs and gave the White Sox a 5-3 lead,ending Lesters night. Dan Wheeler then gave up a two-run, bases-clearingsingle to Carlos Quentin that made it a 7-3 game.

As much as were talking about him not commanding tonight,were 3-3, bases loaded, and we get a blooper that lands inside the chalk,said Francona. That was two runs there, and two more when he left.

The ball wasnt hit hard, but we walked a lefty to getthere. If you give the other team enough chances, sometimes those things happen.

And as we learned after the game, if Lester is throwing toomany cutters, thats not a good thing.

Its the only pitch I could throw for strikes, said Lester.I had no command of my fastball. I threw a couple decent changeups, and Ithink I threw one curveball for a strike, just because I got a check swing atit.

It was really the only pitch I could command, so we had touse it.

I think hes maybe going to the cutter because when hesgetting into binds, he knows he can get out of it with it, said Francona. Andtheres been more baserunners than probably normal.

Because the Red Sox have days off on Thursday and nextMonday, Lester won't pitch again until next Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. Inbetween now and then, they will, as Francona mentioned, go back to the drawingboard.

But nobodys panicking.

I dontneed to go out there and try to figure things out," said Lester. "I think it was just one ofthose deals tonight where I got a little ahead of myself at times, working eastto west, instead of north to south.

I dont need to throw an extended bullpen or anything likethat, yet, it will be nice to get an extra day. Weve been going pretty hard atit these past couple of go-arounds.

When hes going good, he will command better, saidFrancona. We get concerned about everything because thats our job. We try tofix it when its not perfect. And so will he. Hes such a perfectionist. Weretalking about him not commanding, but still, if that ball goes foul, he may endup the winning pitcher.

Danny Picard is onTwitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.