Maddon on Lester: 'The best I've seen him'

Maddon on Lester: 'The best I've seen him'

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon did not want to take left-hander Jon Lester out of Wednesday's game, and Lester gave him no reason to.

Lester threw his first complete game of the season in a 2-1 victory over the Dodgers at Wrigley Field, striking out 10 for his 28th career double-digit-K game and throwing 113 pitches.

"I think that might have been the best I've seen Jonny since I've been here," Maddon said. "He maintained his velocity throughout, his strike throwing throughout, his cutter was 91 [mph] in the ninth inning, his curveball had depth to it. He repeated his delivery over and over. He gives up a leadoff homer and then nothing. That's physically the best I've seen him pitch here."

Lester's complete-game victory

Enrique Hernandez launched Lester's second pitch into the left-field bleachers for one of four hits the Dodgers recorded. That was it.

"When you pitch in to righties like [Lester] does, you have to find out if guys are ready to hit or not," Cubs catcher David Ross said. "That's the price you pay. We found out who was ready to hit and who wasn't. [Hernandez] was ready to hit."

"I just didn't execute the pitch," Lester said. "If we were going in, we wanted to be at his hands, and I didn't get it in all the way. To be honest, I didn't think he hit it all that well."

Lester talks about complete game

Speaking of home runs, that was Maddon's advice to Lester prior to his at-bat in the eighth.

"'Hit a home run,'" Maddon said of his message to his pitcher, who led off the inning. "'Swing for the fences. Go for it, man.'"

Said Lester: "He always tells me to hit a home run. Maybe we should go the other way. I had some great plate appearances tonight."

This was the third complete game by a Cubs starter this season, and the second of this homestand. (Kyle Hendricks went the distance on Saturday against the Phillies.) In the last six games, Cubs starting pitchers have given up four earned runs over 40 1/3 innings for a 0.89 ERA.

"It's one of the grittiest or gutsiest groups I've ever been around," Ross said. "They want to go out there and they want to compete for the team and they all expect to do well each and every night. When you're back there knowing that guy has conviction, that's all you can ask for."

Lester was strong from start to finish.

"You don't get to do that too often," Lester said of throwing a complete game. "That's the second time Joe has surprised me, and it's lucked out that I've been able to finish the game. I thought in no way, shape or form with me leading off the eighth that I was going to hit. I'm just glad he gave me a chance. I know in that situation, a one-run game, I'm basically hitter to hitter."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. 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.