CHICAGO -- Left-hander Jonathan Lester was modest after his do-it-all performance in the Cubs' 7-4 win over the Mets on Monday night at Wrigley Field. A go-ahead single, a pickoff and a back-bending snag -- not to mention his 12th quality start -- all supported manager Joe Maddon's claim that Lester is one heck of an athlete.
However, for Lester, two-thirds of those key moments in the series opener can be attributed to one thing: luck.
In the bottom of the third, Mets starter Noah Syndergaard intentionally walked Kyle Schwarber to load the bases for Lester. He answered with a two-run single to give the Cubs a 4-3 lead.
Asked what his approach was during the at-bat, Lester deadpanned: "I don't have an approach."
"I just closed my eyes and swung, and got lucky," Lester said. "This guy's throwing 100 mph with a pretty good slider. I think he threw most of his sliders at 94 mph tonight. That's harder than my hardest fastball tonight."
A manager and a veteran player rarely give an opposite description of the same play. Maddon said Lester did have an approach during that at-bat, but he gave Lester a compliment that every position player wants to hear.
"He's actually got really good mechanics," Maddon said. "Slow him down on video, this guy has a great approach to hitting."
It was the third time a Lester hit has driven in at least two runs. The others were his two career home runs. He has a lifetime .092 batting average, so maybe they're both right -- Lester is lucky whenever he gets a hit, which doesn't happen often. But man, he looks really good when he takes those hacks with his eyes closed.
There's no disputing that luck had a lot to do with Lester's catch on the comeback line drive by Jose Reyes. It's a circumstance that relies entirely on reaction.
"Most of the time when a ball's hit back at you, as a pitcher, it's just reaction," Lester said. "Fortunately, it went into the middle of my glove, and didn't glance off and prolong that inning. Luck. Again."
Lester seems to have gotten over another problem he's had during his career: throwing to first. This spring, he used a bounce pass, but in the fifth inning, he threw to first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who combined with shortstop Javier Baez on a rundown to get Rosario.
Overall, Rizzo was impressed with Lester's night. He said the 34-year-old starter's athleticism was on display.
"The knock was awesome," Rizzo said. "Two outs, that's very unexpected, off Noah Syndergaard. He's got a great swing. You can tell him I said that, too. The pickoff and the play, he's a good athlete. He really is. You know, I really don't say that too much about pitchers."