CHICAGO (AP) Jon Lester said he wasn’t counting his K’s, but he sure dominated like a big-time, big-money starter.
Lester (6-8) struck out 14, one shy of his career high and the most for a Cubs pitcher in more than a decade, leading Chicago over the Colorado Rockies 3-2 Wednesday.
The 6-foot-4 left-hander struck out seven of his first eight hitters and nine of the first 14. He allowed two runs, five hits and one walk in eight innings.
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Cubs manager Joe Maddon saluted Lester’s most impressive outing since he signed a six-year, $155 million free agent deal with Chicago in the offseason.
”That was the best performance all year,” Maddon said. ”Stuff-wise, I thought he had everything going. Everything was on: that’s why you saw the result you did. He was really that good.”
Lester’s strikeout high was set for Boston on May 3 last year against Oakland. He became the first Cubs pitcher to strike out 14 since Mark Prior had 16 on Sept. 30, 2004.
Lester wasn’t paying close attention to that stat, however.
”You’ve got a lot of other things to worry about than counting those,” he said. ”You kind of know – I’m not going to say are racking them up – but you know you’ve got more than usual.”
Lester said he was as consistent with all of his four pitches – fastball, curveball, cutter and change-up – as he had been all season. And he was happy to get through the eighth for his longest outing this year to give the Cubs’ bullpen a break.
”You got to figure out a way to go as deep as you can,” Lester said. ”It was nice for Joe to let me go out for the eighth, especially for a one-run game.”
Hector Rondon then worked around Carlos Gonzalez’s two-out walk in a hitless ninth for his 13th save in 16 chances.
Anthony Rizzo hit his first homer since July 7, a wind-blown, two-run drive in the third that glanced off the right-field foul pole for his 17th home run this season.
”It was nice to keep that one fair, for sure,” Rizzo said. ”It turned out big for us.”
A day after he was acquired from Toronto, Jose Reyes was 1 for 3 with a walk and a stolen base in his Rockies’ debut. The four-time All-Star, obtained in a trade that sent Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto, batted second and singled in his first at-bat for Colorado, then was caught stealing.
”I think he brings an element that we’re lacking a little bit and that’s the speed,” manager Walt Weiss said. ”High-energy guy and he was on base a couple of times and in the middle of some things, but it’s good to see him out there.”
Chicago leadoff batter Dexter Fowler homered in the first off Eddie Butler (3-7), who allowed three runs and five hits in five innings.
Gonzalez hit his 21st homer, a solo shot off Lester in the seventh. Nolan Arenado hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth.
But the Rockies couldn’t muster much against Lester.
”He had all his pitches today and he was painting and not making enough mistakes,” Gonzales said. ”Even the home run I hit, I don’t think it was a mistake. It was a great pitch, down and away.”
Rockies: To make room for him on the roster, the Rockies optioned infielder Cristhian Adames back to Triple-A Albuquerque.
Cubs: RHP pitcher Neil Ramirez was placed the 15-day disabled list because of left abdominal soreness.
RHP Yoervis Medina was recalled from Iowa, and the Cubs selected the contract of right-handed sinkerball pitcher Ben Rowen from the Triple-A team. The Cubs signed Rowen on July 5 after Baltimore released him. The Cubs optioned RHP Dallas Beeler to Iowa and designated utilityman Mike Baxter for assignment. … INF Tommy La Stella (rib/oblique) was sent to Double-A Tennessee on Wednesday to begin a rehab assignment. La Stella has been sidelined since April 8.
Rockies: LHP Chris Rusin (3-4) is to open a four-game series at St. Louis against RHP Carlos Martinez (11-4).
Cubs: RHP Jake Arietta (11-6, 2.61 ERA) takes the mound against RHP Jimmy Nelson (8-9) as Cubs open an four-game series in Milwaukee. Arietta was the loser last Saturday as the Phillies’ Cole Hamels no-hit Chicago.
Maddon didn’t start regular SS Starlin Casto and RF Jorge Soler as the Cubs played a day game after a night contest. Chris Coghlan started in right and Addison Russell shifted to shortstop, with Jonathan Herrera taking over at second base.