After spending the past six seasons with the Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals left-hander Jon Lester is eager to return to Wrigley Field on Monday as the opposing starting pitcher.
Facing his former teammates looms as a unique challenge. But Lester intends to build valuable momentum by handlinga basic task once he arrives at the ballpark.
“The biggest thing for me is making sure I walk into the right dugout,” Lester said.
Monday marks the first of four games between the Cubs and Nationals. Chicago is coming off a 2-3 interleague road trip against Cleveland and Detroit, which culminated with Sunday’s gem by one of Lester’s former counterparts in the Cubs’ starting rotation.
Kyle Hendricks on Sunday took a shutout into the ninth inning of Chicago’s eventual 5-1 win against Detroit. In eight-plus innings, Hendricks scattered one run on eight hits with a season-high eight strikeouts. He did not issue a walk.
Ian Happ paced the Cubs’ attack with three hits and two RBIs, including a solo home run to punctuate a three-run sixth inning.
He proved equally valuable as a baserunner, scoring the first run of the game when he continued running from second base as Kris Bryant beat out a would-be double play.
“(Happ) was a big part of our success today, and I’m sure everyone will remember the homer, but that first run was a huge play,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “That was a bang-bang play at first and he kept running, so we turn that into a run and give Kyle a chance to settle into the game.”
Activated from the injured list before Saturday’s game after recovering from a left rib contusion, the switch-hitting Happ had an encouraging showing against Tigers lefty Matthew Boyd, with two of his three hits going for extra bases.
Happ was 2-for-19 against left-handers this season with zero extra-base hits entering the game. Washington is set to start southpaw Patrick Corbin on Tuesday after Lester goes to the mound in the series opener.
Lester said he would prefer to pitch earlier in the homecoming series rather than later, allowing him to address the emotional nature of such an appearance quickly.
“Chicago was my home for six years,” Lester said. “We have a house there. My kids grew up there. You invest in a city, you invest in that place that you’re working. Yeah, there’s emotions involved.”
The Nationals have won three of four after defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-0 on Sunday.
Lester (0-1, 2.25 ERA), who pitched for Boston and Oakland before joining Chicago before the 2015 season, is 2-0 with a 5.68 ERA in two career starts against the Cubs with 13 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings.
Right-hander Adbert Alzolay (1-3, 4.50 ERA) is set to get the call for the Cubs. Alzolay, who hasn’t faced Washington in his career, took the loss in Cleveland on Tuesday despite turning in a quality start, yielding three runs and five hits in six innings with six strikeouts and zero walks.
–Field Level Media