Cards roll to 9th straight in Lester's 200th W

September 21st, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- As sat on the Cardinals’ postgame Zoom call following their win over the Brewers on Monday night, he could feel his phone buzzing nonstop.

Enough text messages were rolling in, most coming from family, friends and probably former teammates, that he wasn’t sure who had reached out to him yet. But, he was asked, did he think he had more unread texts or wins as a Major League pitcher?

“I hope wins in the Majors. I don't know if I have that many friends,” Lester said. “... Hopefully [I] have a few more wins than texts to go through because I'll forget somebody and not respond and somebody will be mad, so hopefully it's not that many.”

As long as the number of texts doesn’t exceed 199, he should be in the clear. The 37-year-old Lester, pitching his 16th season in the big leagues, notched career win No. 200 in St. Louis’ 5-2 win over Milwaukee at American Family Field -- the Cardinals' ninth straight victory.

The victory also kept the Cardinals three games ahead of the Reds for the second National League Wild Card spot, with the Redbirds’ magic number to clinch now at 10.

Lester allowed just two earned runs and three hits over six strong innings, keeping Milwaukee at bay as St. Louis slowly built a lead in the last half of the game. Had it not been for a couple of mighty swings from Brewers right fielder Avisaíl García and third baseman Luis Urías in the bottom of the second, Lester’s first scoreless start with the Cardinals wouldn’t have been out of the question.

Instead, Lester settled for his third consecutive quality start and his sixth outing in a row allowing two or fewer earned runs, moving him to 4-1 with a 4.02 ERA since being acquired from the Nationals at the Trade Deadline.

“I didn't even look at the stats or what he did in Washington. I don't have to look at that when it comes to Jon Lester. I think everyone kind of feels the same way,” said Nolan Arenado, whose first-inning homer made him the first St. Louis hitter to reach 100 RBIs in a season since Matt Holliday in 2012. “When you get a pitcher like him, you know he's gonna give you everything he has, and he's gonna keep you in ballgames.

"I feel like he's better on better teams, and teams that are in it, I feel like that's where he thrives. That's just who he is. It's pretty fun to be a part of, because nothing's too big for him.”

“Man, what a tremendous addition,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “Obviously, he's pitched tremendously well. Done a great job, made a few adjustments, but this guy's got such heart and competitive fire. It's really fun to watch him go out and compete.

“He's like John Wayne, you know. Just got that True Grit.”

In typical Lester fashion, he made sure to give credit to both his teammates and coaching staff for helping him adjust to his new situation and ultimately helping him get to No. 200. And even though his latest ‘W’ is quite the accomplishment, the fact that the win moved St. Louis’ winning streak to nine games made it feel even better for him.

“That makes it even more special,” Lester said. “To add on the fact that that's nine in a row for us -- I don't think people realize how hard it is to have winning streaks over four, five, six games. They don't happen a lot. Now that we're at nine, hopefully we can keep going.”

Lester has been a big help in St. Louis’ turnaround, as they’ve gone from a team on the outside of the playoff picture before the trade on July 30 to 28-18 since. Lester’s pedigree has led to a more confident Cardinals team, while his positive nature has helped produce a more upbeat clubhouse.

And now, his own success since coming to St. Louis has helped put the Cardinals in a position where the second NL Wild Card spot feels like it’s theirs to lose.

“We're playing good teams, and we're playing really good baseball,” Lester said. “Hopefully we can continue to get a little more space between us and the next team, to where we really don't have to worry about someone trying to catch us and we can focus on the next step.”