<
>

Jon Lester's complete game issues challenge to Cubs' staff

play
Lester pitches Cubs' first complete game of season (1:06)

Jon Lester holds the Giants to four hits and Anthony Rizzo smacks a two-run home run to lead the Cubs to a 4-1 victory. (1:06)

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs ace Jon Lester said he didn't mind sharing the headlines with his good friend David Ross after Lester pitched a complete game against the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday, while Ross was waiting to hear if he won ABC's "Dancing with the Stars."

As it turned out, Ross came in second, but even if he'd won the competition, it would have been difficult for him to outshine Lester's performance. It was that good.

"A complete game is few and far between, especially in the National League," Lester said after the 4-1 win. "It's a hard thing to do now."

Consider his night:

  • Lester is the first pitcher in baseball this season to throw a complete game without going to three balls on any hitter. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it happened just once last season, by Ivan Nova in September.

  • Lester became the first Cubs pitcher to throw a complete game using less than 100 pitches since Carlos Zambrano in 2009. Lester needed 99 on Tuesday.

  • He struck out the side in the first and two more in the ninth, ending the night with 10 K's. It was his 28th career double-digit strikeout game.

  • Lester helped produce the quickest game in baseball this season, lasting just 2 hours, 5 minutes. It was the quickest Cubs game since May 9, 2012.

And the whole performance came after a 1:05 rain delay, which included a few minutes of waiting even after he warmed up. The umpires were watching the radar, as this game could have started and stopped all night. A lot could have gone wrong, but nothing did.

"You better make sure you don't turn off," Lester said of the delays. "Once you get going [warmed up], there's really no turning back from there."

It doesn't hurt when you're facing an historically bad offense in the Giants, who are on pace for the lowest batting average in team history. Lester took advantage and was most pleased he gave up no free passes, let alone no three-ball counts. He was asked what it told him about his outing.

"It tells you a combination of things," he said. "They were aggressive. They were trying not to get to my off-speed pitches. We were able to disguise that a little bit. I'm glad the no-walks thing. There's been a few too many walks for me this year."

So what does this all mean besides a night off for the bullpen? Manager Joe Maddon said he wants to believe there are bigger implications.

"I think it impacts the rest of the starting pitchers," Maddon said. "It's contagious. They feed off one another. I'd like to believe something like that can really tweak the starters in a good way."

They could use a "tweak," considering the Cubs' rotation ranks 10th in ERA in the National League, and that's after Lester's brilliant performance. It remains to be seen if there can be a carryover effect, considering the inconsistency in that rotation. Perhaps the only one who has inspired real confidence is the guy who pitched Tuesday. The Cubs don't know what they'll get the other days of the week, but right now Lester is on his game.

"That's classic stuff," Maddon said. "He just kept on getting better."

At least Cubs nation can celebrate one win Tuesday -- although second place in a dancing competition isn't all that bad either.