At long last, a hit for Lester
CHICAGO -- Lefty Jon Lester may have gotten his first hit, and he'll likely get a free beer, too, from former teammate John Lackey -- who served up the hit -- but he called the single "worthless" because the Cubs lost, 6-0.
Lester recorded his first Major League hit with an infield single off the Cardinals' Lackey in the second inning on Monday to end an 0-for-66 career hitless streak that began in 2006.
Lester smacked an 0-2 pitch off -- literally -- Lackey, his former Red Sox teammate, with the ball deflecting off Lackey and toward shortstop. Lester ran to first, sporting a sheepish smile, and the Cubs got the ball so he can have the souvenir.
"I know 'Lack,' I've played a long time with him," Lester said. "We had some bets going into the game and a little trash talking involved. It's nice [to get the hit], but at the same time, it's something you can't really enjoy right now. You get a hit, and that's awesome, but if you lose a game, it doesn't matter. At the end of the day, we lost the game, so that's the story line there."
Does Lackey owe Lester anything after the hit?
"Probably a beer tonight," Lester said.
Lester, who is pitching in the National League for the first time in his career, also was unable to connect in the postseason and was 0-for-5 in the playoffs, so he now is 1-for-73.
"He doesn't have a bad swing, he really doesn't, technically," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's hit some balls really hard this year, with some bad luck. Hopefully, it's going to lead to more hits. It's one of those quirky things. And there's a lot of guys with a lot worse swings than he has that have gotten hits. That's how this game plays sometimes."
Lester had the distinction of the worst 0-for-career stretch by an active pitcher in the Major Leagues. That honor now goes to the Rockies' Chad Bettis, who is 0-for-30.
As for his outing, Lester had more hits than the Cardinals did through the first six innings, but St. Louis took advantage of a throwing error by third baseman Kris Bryant and opened a two-run lead in the seventh. That was all Lackey needed.
"I thought it was Lester's best night by far," Maddon said. "I thought it was the best he's thrown the baseball all year, from an observation perspective. His stuff was outstanding. Everything was working -- fastball, cutter, curveball, command, in the zone, great rhythm."
He just couldn't get a victory, and now is winless in a career-high nine straight starts, with a 3.29 ERA in that stretch.