Postseason ace coming off 8 shutout innings in DS opener
By Jenifer Langosch and Carrie Muskat
SAN FRANCISCO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon announced Thursday that Jon Lester, who threw eight shutout innings in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Giants, will open the NL Championship Series on Saturday at Wrigley Field (FS1, 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT).
After winning the NLDS in four games, the Cubs will play the Dodgers, who defeated the Nationals in Game 5 of their NLDS on Thursday to advance.
The left-hander has become well-acquainted with the October stage over his 11-year career -- and thrived on it. Since his first playoff appearance in 2007, Lester leads all pitchers with 106 postseason innings. Over that stretch, he ranks third with 15 starts, third with seven wins and sixth with a 2.63 ERA (min. 40 innings).
It's a resume that adds to the confidence the Cubs have in sending their regular-season ace to the mound in a win-or-go-home game.
"It's going to be a tough series no matter what," Lester said of the Cubs' next opponent. "Both teams are going to be very tough. They've got great pitching. Their lineups are pretty well stacked. We'll figure it out as we go."
Lester scattered five hits without allowing a walk in his Game 1 NLDS start against the Giants, and the Cubs were happy to not have to face the Giants and Johnny Cueto again in a potential Game 5. Chicago rallied to score four runs in the ninth inning and post a 6-5 victory over San Francisco on Tuesday night at AT&T Park and clinch the series.
"Cueto is good -- our numbers are terrible against Cueto, and I didn't want to see that," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I know Jon is good against them, but Cueto is good against us and in those low-scoring games, anything can happen, like the 1-0 home run."
Lester is ready for whatever is next.
"We all know what time of year this is and what we're playing for," Lester said. "The preparation and the mindset remain the same, but when you're out there, you know what you're playing for. I think we all know that and I think the biggest thing is just being able to harness that, not run from that."