Lester surprised, but gets why he was lifted

Cubs lefty holds LA to one run over six, but Maddon opts for pinch-hitter

Lester surprised, but gets why he was lifted

CHICAGO -- The Dodgers tried to disrupt Jon Lester's rhythm, stepping out of the box, taking long leads once they got on the bases. But what may have thrown the Cubs lefty off even more on Saturday night was being lifted after six innings in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

Manager Joe Maddon decided to pull Lester, who had thrown 77 pitches. At that point, the Cubs led 3-1, but they had to rally to win, 8-4, to take the lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 2 is Sunday (8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on FS1).

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 15 CHC 8, LAD 4 video
Gm 2 Oct. 16 LAD 1, CHC 0 video
Gm 3 Oct. 18 LAD 6, CHC 0 video
Gm 4 Oct. 19 CHC 10, LAD 2 video
Gm 5 Oct. 20 CHC 8, LAD 4 video
Gm 6 Oct. 22 CHC 5, LAD 0 video

NLCS Game 2: Tonight at 7 CT on FS1

Lester was on deck to bat in the sixth, and was called back so Jorge Soler could pinch-hit with a runner on second and two outs. Soler grounded out, and Lester's night was over. When the lefty was called back, he slowly walked to the middle of the dugout rather than take the steps closest to the on deck circle.

"I just thought that tonight, Jon really wasn't on top of his game," Maddon said. "There was a chance to put add-on runs in that particular moment. You had [Adrian] Gonzalez, and then [Carlos] Ruiz had two good at-bats against him. [Enrique] Hernandez has already had good at-bats at him. It was also an opportunity to get Ruiz out of the game, which eventually turned into [Yasmani] Grandal.

"You've got to look at the whole big picture," Maddon said. "All those things were part of it. If Jon was on top of his game, I may not have done it, but I didn't think he had his best stuff tonight, so that was part of that decision. Yeah, we had no choice."

The Dodgers were able to square up some balls against Lester and make good contact, which kept the Cubs' defense busy. Dexter Fowler robbed Justin Turner and Ruiz of potential extra-base hits in the third and fourth, respectively, with great catches.

Lester didn't have a chance to make a case to stay in the game.

Lester on coming out of the game

"When you're on deck, you don't really have a chance to have a discussion, you know," he said. "It is what it is. I don't get paid to make decisions, I get paid to pitch. So, that's his decision to make, and obviously, we've got a lot of guys on that bench that can swing the bat a lot better than I can, obviously. It is what it is.

"Would I have liked to have gone out for the seventh? Absolutely," Lester said. "But you've got to understand the situation and put yourself kind of what the manager's trying to do."

Cubs catcher David Ross could tell the Dodgers were trying to find some kind of edge against Lester.

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"They take their time," Ross said. "Jon's really good and you try to find a way to beat him and have all these different tactics. We've seen different ways to try to beat him all year. It's a credit to his success."

Was Ross surprised Lester was lifted?

"I'm never surprised with Joe," Ross said. "He thinks outside the box. He's the manager, he makes the decisions. We're the players, and we play."

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.