Lester improves, strikes out 10 against Reds

Despite no-decision, lefty pitches best outing this season

Lester improves, strikes out 10 against Reds

CINCINNATI -- Jon Lester has had to do a crash course on the National League, and on Friday, his studying skills paid off.

The Cubs lefty did not get a decision in the 7-3, 11-inning win over the Reds, but he had his best outing to date, striking out a season-high 10 batters over six innings.

"The thing that's been plaguing me is the continued baserunners," Lester said. "I got a better feel for my cutter tonight and was able to make some offspeed pitches, which is obviously key against this team. I'm learning. New league, new faces, new guys. I'm kind of figuring it out as we go and keep adjusting."

This was Lester's fourth start, and he has yet to get a win with the Cubs. Perhaps the problem is that he's trying too hard?

"I wouldn't think anybody's exempt from that," manager Joe Maddon said. "The word 'pressure' is utilized a lot of times. It's not wanting to let people down. I've talked about how Major League players don't want to be embarrassed, and they don't want to let anybody down. I think those are the two major thoughts or feelings we all have. You never want to let your teammates down and you never want to embarrass yourself.

"Regardless of how many years and how good they are, I promise you I've been around veterans, Hall of Famers, and I could not believe the conversations I was listening to," Maddon said. "We all doubt ourselves at different moments."

Bottom line, the Cubs are simply trying to get Lester more comfortable and, therefore, more effective. The lefty faced the Reds on April 13 and was charged with six runs on 10 hits over six innings. On Friday, he held Cincinnati to three runs on five hits.

"I'm a visual guy," Lester said. "When I get to see how guys approach me, and see how they take swings off me, and so forth and so on, you learn. I get information. It's a work in progress. It's a constant adjustment for me right now."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.