Lester gets out at first -- by throwing entire glove
Happy to make 'weird' play, lefty feels he's improving on mound
CHICAGO -- Jon Lester called the play one of those "weird" occurrences in baseball.
After he fielded a Clint Barmes grounder to the mound in the second inning, Lester tried to grab the baseball as he looked to second base for a potential double play. But the ball became stuck in the Cubs pitcher's glove. So, Lester heaved the entire glove -- with ball still inside -- at first baseman Anthony Rizzo to get the out. Rizzo dropped his own glove to catch Lester's.
"Obviously, that isn't something you draw up," Lester said. "I was more surprised that I caught the ball more than anything. And then you go to grab it, and it's not there.
"It was the mad scramble there to figure out what was going on, and obviously it happens in a matter of seconds. I would have liked to get the double play, but we'll settle for the out."
The crowd roared its approval.
"It's a good play that he caught the ball in the first place," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "And then to complete it, that was very entertaining."
The play during the Cubs' 5-2 loss to the Padres on Sunday wound up on highlight reels.
As for his performance on the mound, Lester felt he's improving. He allowed three runs, struck out four and walked two in 5 1/3 innings while throwing a season-high 97 pitches. The left-hander -- who signed a six-year, $155 million deal in the offseason -- has yet to throw a quality start for the Cubs and has allowed 12 runs in 15 2/3 innings.
"It's just a matter of executing pitches, and I did that more consistently," Lester said. "I would have liked to have gone a little deeper in the game, have some longer counts, have some foul balls, but I liked it.
"Obviously, the results aren't there. We obviously go out there to win the game, and that's the results we want, and that's not there. But when you sit back and evaluate, it was better. Not there, but better."
Maddon said Lester made progress and is returning to normal. Lester dealt with a dead arm issue during Spring Training in late March.
"He's getting a little bit sharper with everything," Maddon said. "You could see he was still frustrated on certain pitches.
"It was a nice step forward. Some better cutters in the latter part of the game. Some curveball strikes, some changeups that were effective. Fastball velocity was pretty much normal. He stayed in his delivery a little bit better."
Lester allowed a two-run home run to Will Middlebrooks in the second inning. The other run scored in the sixth after a leadoff walk to Matt Kemp, a Derek Norris single and, after reliever Brian Schlitter entered, an RBI single by Will Venable.
"I don't want to say it was one pitch that did me in, but I didn't execute the cutter in to Middlebrooks, and he made me pay for it, especially after we scored two off [Padres starter Andrew] Cashner," Lester said.
"But for the most part, I did a pretty good job of keeping the ball on the ground. That means I'm getting action on the pitches I need and getting some mishits, which was good."