Jon Lester, at the very least, is going to be part of Cubs lore because of one play in the Cubs' 5-2 loss to the Padres Sunday afternoon. Since it's still too early for an embed code, here's a link with the video and some GIFs.
He couldn't get a comebacker out of the webbing of his glove, so he threw the entire glove to Anthony Rizzo, who caught it to retire Clint Barmes, a totally legal play. A heads-up one, too, on Lester's part -- and proof that he can indeed throw to first base!
Too bad the rest of the game didn't go this way. The Cubs scored two runs in the first inning thanks in part to a couple of Padres errors. Jorge Soler and Chris Coghlan were credited with RBI in the inning, and things looked up, had Lester thrown a good game.
He didn't. This one was just about as shaky as the other two, and yes it's early but every one of the Cubs' four starters has had at least one start better than any of Lester's. You'll remember that Lester missed some time in spring training due to some unspecified arm trouble and we can only hope that there isn't some kind of injury underlying his mediocre performance so far this season. I'll grant that with the missed time, he's still playing catch-up with some of his rotation-mates. But the next time out, I'd like to see something better than we saw Sunday afternoon.
Two of the runs off Lester were on a two-run homer by Will Middlebrooks, who was the proverbial one-man wrecking crew this weekend at Wrigley. Middlebrooks was just 3-for-13 in the series, but two of the hits were homers and he drove in five runs.
The game was still close until Jason Motte allowed a two-run homer to Yangervis Solarte in the seventh.
And then, there's the Edwin Jackson conundrum. ("Edwin Jackson Conundrum." Sounds like a jazz band, right?)
Jackson, who hadn't pitched in nine days, threw the last two innings of this one as rain started to fall, and was just as effective against the Padres as he was a week ago Friday against the Rockies. Two innings, one single, 16 strikes in 23 pitches.
Maybe this is all he can do -- mop up once a week. Or maybe he can do more, go into situations where the game is a bit closer in the late innings and keep it that way, or maybe even hold a lead. His performance so far, I'd say, at least justifies Joe Maddon trying him a bit more often. The Cubs now have yet another pitcher on the staff, Gonzalez Germen, recalled from Triple-A Iowa with Matt Szczur sent down. That gives the Cubs an eight-man bullpen again, and four bench players that include one reserve outfielder, one reserve infielder (okay, granted, Arismendy Alcantara can play the outfield, too) and two backup catchers.
I just don't see how that's going to work long-term even though Joe Maddon likes to move players around to different positions. There just isn't enough flexibility.
And if he'd actually use Jackson more, there might not be the need for eight relief pitchers.
I'm going to beat the drum again, softly, for the DH in the National League. Lester looks pathetic at the plate. He went 0-for-2 with a strikeout, which makes him 0-for-5 this year with three K's and 0-for-41 in his career with 25 punchouts. Is this really what you want to see? I should note here that the major-league record for going hitless in a season is held (naturally) by a Cubs pitcher, Bob Buhl, who went 0-for-70 in 1962. I don't know if Lester will get 70 at-bats this year, but I don't see any way he's going to get a hit, except by complete and utter accident.
The Cubs did rally a bit as the rain started falling harder, getting two runners on base in the ninth without hitting the ball out of the infield. Chris Denorfia got his first Cubs hit, an infield single, and then Dexter Fowler laid down a nice bunt. But Soler struck out and that, as they say, was that.
I should also note here Kris Bryant's first major-league extra-base hit, a double off Andrew Cashner in the fifth. There will be many more of those to come, I'm sure, as well as home runs.
Just be thankful, for now, that the Cubs aren't the Giants, who I saw play at AT&T Park this afternoon. Their offense looks completely puny without the injured Hunter Pence and the departed Pablo Sandoval, and Tim Hudson looks pretty close to done. The Giants lost for the ninth time in their last 10 games and have scored only 37 runs in their 14 total games -- the Cubs, in three fewer games, have scored 45. And they lost three of four to the Diamondbacks, who were the worst team I saw all spring training; Arizona really has only one good player, Paul Goldschmidt, who homered today.
I should note that the Giants are doing the MLB-mandated security screening (the Cubs are exempt this year at Wrigley due to construction), so it was the first time I had experienced it. Pretty cursory, actually; I just put my keys and phone in a small basket, walked through the metal detector, picked my stuff back up, and that was that. It all moved pretty quickly.
The Cubs move on to a seven-game divisional road swing to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati beginning Monday night. Jake Arrieta will face A.J. Burnett in what many of us thought might be Bryant's first big-league game. Instead, it'll be his first road contest, as he still seek his first major-league home run.