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Lester's emotional day ends with wild win

Thinking of uncle who passed away, veteran flirts with perfecto, gives up HRs, watches Cubs rally
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Jon Lester's Saturday start came with a range of emotions.

As he took the mound for the Cubs' 3-2 win over the Cardinals at Wrigley Field, Lester sported a cap with the letters "PLACT" etched on the front. He did so in remembrance of his uncle, who had passed away the previous day.

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CHICAGO -- Jon Lester's Saturday start came with a range of emotions.

As he took the mound for the Cubs' 3-2 win over the Cardinals at Wrigley Field, Lester sported a cap with the letters "PLACT" etched on the front. He did so in remembrance of his uncle, who had passed away the previous day.

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"I'm sorry," Lester said, beginning to choke up. "I was letting him know that I was thinking of him."

Video: STL@CHC: Lester on his emotional start against Cards

Those letters, signifying the Notre Dame motto of "Play Like a Champion Today," were Lester's reminder of his uncle, who previously attended the university. And it was with his uncle on his mind that Lester turned in one of the strongest performances of his season.

The left-hander retired the first 17 Cardinals batters before opposing pitcher Adam Wainwright broke up the potential perfect game in the sixth. Lester locked back in, retiring the next four batters and getting through the seventh inning with only one hit allowed.

Video: STL@CHC: Wainwright breaks up Lester's perfect game

"He was outstanding," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "It was pretty entertaining to watch, I'm sure."

You could tell early in the day that Lester was in a zone.

Hours before anyone would begin mentioning the word "perfect," the left-hander sat in front of his locker, his eyes forward and expression indiscernible. His hood was pulled up and he was sporting a pair of earbuds, drowning out the country music blaring over the speakers in the clubhouse.

"He won't ever show you any emotion. And to hear that [about his uncle], it's terrible," said Kris Bryant. "He's probably one of the best teammates I've been able to play with in my short time. You know what you're going to get with him every day on the mound. He's going to be the same guy, same competitor, and I love that about him."

That intensity never faded, though the perfect game would come and go.

Video: STL@CHC: Lester strikes out Gyorko for his 10th K

Lester left the outing after eight innings, having struck out a season-high-tying 10. He allowed two runs -- on back-to-back homers in the eighth -- but he got the win as Bryant, Ben Zobrist, Anthony Rizzo all came through with RBIs in the bottom of the frame.

And in true Lester form, that was where he put the focus after the game.

"Today was good. The comeback there at the end was big for us," Lester said. "Especially coming out of the break and playing so well and obviously yesterday getting away from us a little bit. So, that was a big win for us."

Scott Chasen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.

Chicago Cubs, Jon Lester