Maddon: Lester 'peaking at right time'

Maddon: Lester 'peaking at right time'

CINCINNATI -- Wednesday may have been Jon Lester's last regular-season start, but the Cubs left-hander is not ready to finish pitching this year.

Making his 32nd start, Lester struck out nine over eight innings in a 10-3 victory over the Reds and accomplished his personal goal of reaching 200 innings. He also set the franchise record for single-season strikeouts by a left-hander, finishing with 207, which tops Ken Holtzman's 1970 record of 202. It's the fourth time in Lester's career that he's reached 200 K's in a season.

"He was pretty much unhittable," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Lester's final 5 2/3 innings, when he retired the last 20 batters he faced.

Lester doesn't know when or if he'll pitch again in 2015. The Cubs have clinched a Wild Card postseason berth and will face the Pirates on Oct. 7 in the National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser. Maddon has said 21-game winner Jake Arrieta will start that game, whose site has yet to be determined. If the Cubs win, Lester would start Game 1 of the NL Division Series, which would be against the Cardinals in St. Louis.

"We have a few more to go," Lester said. "It was a good one to end on. Nice to finish on that note."

What has impressed Maddon is Lester's consistency this season, even though he did get off to a slow start.

"When you get to watch him, and if you're paying attention, consistency-wise, he's hard to beat," Maddon said. "You pretty much know what you're going to get."

Lester also has the reputation of being a big-game pitcher. He has a career 6-4 record and 2.57 ERA in 14 postseason games, including 12 starts.

"[Watching] from the side, his stuff is really good," Maddon said. "That cutter is very nasty now. You can tell by the swings and lack of hard contact. The velocity is there when he wants it, and the slow hook. He is probably peaking at the right time."

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.