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Lester's crisp outing encouraging for Cubs

NEW YORK -- Maybe the Mets were just what Jon Lester needed to get back on track.

Sure, Lester was long gone by the time the Cubs finally broke a scoreless tie and secured Wednesday's 2-0, 11-inning win at Citi Field. And true, none of Chicago's five relievers had much trouble carving through New York's lineup either. But the Cubs are nonetheless optimistic after Lester's best start in two months continued what is becoming a statistically impressive run by the team's starters.

"When our rotation gets on a roll, that's when things start clicking," Lester said of a staff that's thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings dating to Sunday. "As a group, as a unit, we all need to get on a roll. We all need to turn that rotation over to the next guy and continue to pitch well."

That will remain especially true if the Cubs' touted lineup continues to slump. Cubs manager Joe Maddon was blunt Wednesday, after his club was held to two runs or fewer for the eighth consecutive game.

"We are not an offensive juggernaut," he said.

Lester made sure that wasn't a problem, matching Mets starter Bartolo Colon pitch-for-pitch on his way to a seven-inning night. Lester scattered five hits and one walk, striking out seven over what would become his first scoreless outing since May 1, a stretch of 10 starts.

Lester didn't face an offense exactly clicking on all cylinders. It's becoming fair to wonder whether the Mets are merely mired in a prolonged funk (20 innings without a run) or something closer to inept offensively. New York ranks 29th in the Majors in batting average and 27th in runs scored.

Still, Lester's stuff was as good as it's been all year, and it even improved as the game went on. His signature cutter was especially sharp, causing several self-inflicted foul-ball wounds on Mets hitters.

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"The ball was jumping at home plate," Maddon said.

That hasn't been the case recently for Lester, who was 0-3 with a 5.74 ERA in June.

"I felt a lot better," Lester said. "Hopefully now I can get on a little bit of a roll and not worry about going too good or too bad all the time."

Joe Trezza is an associate reporter for
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