CLEVELAND -- Although it may be impossible to tell, there will be nerves for Jon Lester -- the veteran admitted as much -- when he takes the mound at Progressive Field tonight. But throughout his career, Lester seems to be the most relaxed in these moments, building a résumé as
CLEVELAND -- Although it may be impossible to tell, there will be nerves for Jon Lester -- the veteran admitted as much -- when he takes the mound at Progressive Field tonight. But throughout his career, Lester seems to be the most relaxed in these moments, building a résumé as one of the most accomplished postseason pitchers of this era.
Lester, the co-Most Valuable Player of the National League Championship Series (with infielder Javier Báez), will get the start for the Cubs in Game 1 of the World Series tonight against the Indians. Corey Kluber will start for Cleveland.
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Lester will be followed by Jake Arrieta in Game 2, and Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey in Games 3 and 4 at Wrigley Field.
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That the Cubs named Lester for this start was no surprise; he started their series openers during the first two rounds of this postseason. They signed Lester as a free agent during the offseason in 2014 with games such as tonight's in mind, to be able to send a starter to the mound with his postseason experience and poise.
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"There is an incredible amount of calm that I'm seeing from the dugout when I'm watching him out there right now," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's really, really in the moment, he's calm. Gosh, he's just eager to get out and pitch.
"So, yeah, he's definitely on his way. You see all those names on our scoreboard once in a while that go back to the early 1900s, with all this great [allure] and all this kind of stuff. Maybe 50, 60 years from now you'll see Jonny up there with the same kind of reverence. So I know he's ready. I know he's in the moment and throwing the ball really well right now. So, again, I'm eager to watch him pitch."
This will be Lester's second start in the opening game of the World Series. He took the ball in Game 1 in 2013 for the Red Sox and dominated the Cardinals, scattering five hits across 7 2/3 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and one walk in an 8-1 Boston victory. He has won each of his three career World Series starts while posting a 0.43 ERA.
Lester joins a memorable list of pitchers to start Game 1 of the World Series for the Cubs, such as Moredcai "Three Finger" Brown, Orval Overall and Hippo Vaughn.
"Obviously this is one of the goals that you set, for me at least, the individual, and as far as team goal, you want to make it to this point," Lester said. "You want to be the last team standing and jumping in that dogpile and having fun afterwards. It's very rewarding to get to this point, but we still have this week to go."
The Indians present an interesting challenge for Lester because of their speed and baserunning. They could take advantage of Lester's well-documented issues throwing to first base. Still, despite those issues, the lefty has remained one of the most effective pitchers in baseball, and he could win the NL Cy Young Award this season.
And Lester has been everything the Cubs could have asked for during the postseason. He has allowed just two runs in 21 innings with 14 strikeouts and two walks -- and Chicago has won all three of his starts. But Lester insisted that it's not due to relishing these moments, but being able to control his emotions and treating it like any other start.
"I'm not naive to the situation," he said. "You know, there will be nerves and there will be adrenaline and all that stuff when I go out there to throw the first pitch and kind of get the ball rolling. But once you get into the game, I feel like then you're able to go back to your game plan and what you're trying to think of.
"So, I don't look at it as the nation looking at me as a starting pitcher and all that stuff. I look at it as we're the Chicago Cubs, and I'm fortunate enough to pitch Game 1 tomorrow, and we're going to try to win that game. That's how I kind of look at it."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.