At home with Cubs, Lester set for stretch run

Lefty boosts Chicago with 14-K performance at Wrigley Field

At home with Cubs, Lester set for stretch run

CHICAGO -- Jon Lester doesn't forget July 31. It's his son Hudson's birthday. It's also the day Lester was traded from the Red Sox, which had been the only team he'd played for, to the Athletics a year ago.

"Last year made for an interesting birthday," Lester said after a dominant performance in the Cubs' 3-2 victory over the Rockies on Wednesday.

Lester isn't worried about being moved at Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline after signing a six-year contract with the Cubs last December, but the lefty is aware what a move can do for a team.

Lester on his strong outing

"I think any time, whether it's a big move or a small move, any time you get somebody who gives you that little boost, that belief -- and I'm not saying [the front office] doesn't believe in us if they don't make a move -- but you get that little boost in the clubhouse, that, 'Hey, these guys think we can make a push here,'" Lester said. "Would it be nice? Yeah. If it doesn't happen, I think we all understand. We have the pieces. We just need to consistently play well in all fronts of the game."

Lester took care of business in the finale against Colorado. The lefty struck out a season-high 14 batters over eight innings to earn his sixth win of the year. He's the only Cubs left-hander since at least 1914 to record 14 K's in a game, and it's the most by a Chicago hurler since Mark Prior fanned 16 Reds on Sept. 30, 2004.

"That was his best performance all year," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Lester, who was one strikeout shy of matching his career high.

Despite taking the series against the Rockies, the Cubs still trail the Pirates and Giants in the Wild Card race, and there have been reports that they're looking for starting pitching help. Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks are set, but the fifth spot has been a revolving door lately.

Adding another arm could bolster the rotation -- and provide that boost.

"It's an exciting time for some guys," Lester said. "I know he was kind of blindsided by it the other night, but a guy like Troy Tulowitzki gets traded from a last place team to a team that's in it [the Blue Jays], they're a few games from being right in the thick of things. I think it's good for guys like that.

"The guys here get that boost, but you get that boost -- 'Hey, we're in it now and I've got to step my game up and make sure I'm not the link that brings this whole thing down.'"

Right now, he'll focus on Hudson's birthday, and his next start. Lester now has gone at least seven innings in his six July starts, and has a 1.66 ERA (eight earned runs over 43 1/3 innings).

"We've got a long way to go and we'll keep grinding and we can't worry about other guys," Lester said of the postseason push. "Hopefully, they start playing a little worse and we play a little better."

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