There is nothing good about Saturday’s walk-off loss, the fourth time on this road trip alone that the Cubs have dropped a game in the last at-bat. But one of the major gripes with the situational management in this one may have been for naught.
Jon Lester, who was scratched from his scheduled Wednesday start in San Francisco, was dealing through seven innings. He’d given up no runs on four hits and three walks and had registered two of his five strikeouts in his final inning of work. BDJ closed that frame by getting Orlando Arcia with a cutter on his 94th pitch.
Then he was lifted for Steve Cishek, on for the 50th time this season, and Cubs fans cocked their heads to the side curiously. Then Cishek gave up a leadoff home run on his second pitch to Friday villain Ben Gamel and the pitchforks came out. Then Cishek gave up a double on his first pitch to Lorenzo Cain and torches were set ablaze.
By the time the inning had finally, mercifully come to a close, the game was tied 2-2 and everyone was wondering how on earth Joe Maddon could have pulled Lester and turned the game over to a shaky bullpen. And this was just a day after he’d done the same with Kyle Hendricks, who was even more dominant over only 90 pitches.
“FIRE JOE,” the angry mob yelled. Those with the torches may have actually meant it literally. And don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of other questionable decisions in this one. But pulling Lester at what would otherwise be a premature juncture may not have been Maddon’s call.
“Not too many times that I go up to Joe or Tommy (Hottovy, Cubs pitching coach) and tell ’em I’m good, but tonight was one of ’em,” Lester said soberly. “I’m just, I was gassed. Sixth and seventh inning got to me. I think with just everything going on this week and whatnot, just…I was dead.
“Today was my last day of Z-Pak (Zithromax anitbiotics), so I just think…had to grind through it. Every pitch mattered, you know, so I had to be really into it, had to make sure we didn’t miss, and that takes a toll on you.”
I’ll be honest, I feel the same way about running a Cubs blog as the trade deadline approaches.
There’s bound to be plenty of skepticism about the veracity of Lester’s claims, but he’s always been a really forthright dude and it’s hard to imagine him flat-out lying about begging off in such a big game. If you’re one of those people, I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise. I will, however, say that Lester is not a dude who’d be willing to come out if he still felt sharp and fresh.
So even if you’re out there looking for reasons to skewer Maddon with your tines, maybe find motivation from one of any number of more valid options.