His own toughest critic, Lester now 3-0 in May
After grinding through winless April, Cubs elder statesman appears to be putting things together
CHICAGO -- The last time Jon Lester faced the Mets, he was a 22-year-old rookie making his fourth big league start. Lester is now 31, and he's the veteran on the Cubs, overseeing the kids.
"Now, to be kind of the old guy, it's weird, but it's something I'm learning on the fly on how to do," Lester said. "These guys are great. I can go back to my days and how naive I was about the game and understanding how to actually pitch. These guys understand the game. I don't know what they do in the Minor Leagues with these guys and prepare them, but that's a testament to the farm system."
The guys he's talking about are young Cubs like Kris Bryant and Addison Russell, who helped Lester pick up the win Monday night in a 4-3 victory over the Mets. Lester gave up three runs on five hits over six innings, striking out six.
The lefty did serve up back-to-back home runs to Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores in the sixth, but catcher David Ross took the blame for those.
"The two home runs late I feel were more on me," said Ross, who has been behind the plate for all of Lester's starts. "I went on my gut with fastballs in ... and I should've gone cutter."
Lester had already reviewed video of his outing before the game was over.
"He's a perfectionist," Ross said. "He always feels he can get better, and that's why he is who he is."
Lester called the outing "good, bad and indifferent all in one," saying he felt good early in the game, and then hit a rough stretch in the fourth. The good news is that after beginning the season 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA in four April starts, he's now 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in May.
"I think Jon's just fine," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I see him getting better every time out. ... Give him a little bit more time as he builds into this thing. I like what I'm seeing."
Lester said the same of the young Cubs players. He complimented Russell, who is making the switch from shortstop to second and having to do so at the big league level. Bryant, who hit his second home run and first at Wrigley Field in the first inning, has done well at third, Lester said.
He saves the toughest evaluation for himself. Asked about his expectations for himself at this point in the season, Lester said: "I stink."
"My expectations are more than anybody could put on me," he said. "The biggest thing is we won. You look at that, and everything's fine."
And he's even able to enjoy the disco-like postgame celebration.
"It's a different thing for me," Lester said. "You go back to being with the Red Sox and it's so regimented and serious all the time, and you're expected to win. When you do win, there's no celebration and it's on to the next day. It's nice to take two minutes out of our day and really enjoy what we just did on the field."