The Chicago Cubs handed lefty starter Jon Lester a six-year $155 million deal this past offseason, hoping he’d be the ace they’ve lacked for years. The former Red Sox hero had an up-and-down first season in Chicago with a 11-12 record, 3.34 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 207 strikeouts, but he was really brought on for his 2.66 ERA in the postseason.
And now Lester will try to earn that hefty contract against the New York Mets’ Matt Harvey in Saturday night’s Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Citi Field.
Lester will guide the Cubs into a series for the second straight time, but hopes for a better performance than his Game 1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Division Series. The 31-year-old looked sharp for the majority of his 7 1/3 innings, tallying nine strikeouts and five hits, but let up three runs in the eighth that ultimately led to Chicago’s 4-0 loss.
Lester put on a much better show against the Mets during the regular season. He posted a 1-0 mark in two starts, allowing three earned runs and 10 hits over 13 innings, helping Chicago rack-up a perfect 7-0 mark against New York.
But the Mets lineup is far more potent since those first-half games. Led by second baseman Daniel Murphy’s clutch hitting and Yoenis Cespedes powerful moonshots, New York tagged the Los Angeles Dodgers loaded rotation for 22 runs over five games. Murphy and right fielder Curtis Granderson lead the squad with five RBI each, with the latter notching a .389 average and two doubles.
The Mets’ Harvey also faces one of the playoffs’ most potent lineups, highlighted by the Cubs 12 home runs and .506 slugging percentage. The Cubs relied on power-hitters Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant in the regular season, but it’s the bat of left fielder Kyle Schwarber that’s lifted the offense with three dingers, five RBI, and 16 total bases in the NLDS and put them in line for the World Series for the first time since 2003.
Harvey, who before the postseason began felt the wrath of fans after missing a mandatory team workout and for an innings restriction as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, put himself back in good graces with his Game 3 victory in the NLDS. Making the first postseason start of his career, the 26-year-old only went five innings but struck out seven and allowed only two earned while New York’s lineup provided excellent run support in the 13-7 win.
Start Time: 8:07 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TBS
Live Online: TBS Online