CHICAGO – Due to a bit of an infatuation with the Joe Maddon-led squad, less of the supernatural has been mentioned in this Cubs’ playoff run.
Talk of ghosts, goats and curses have been muted even at the start of the 2016 National League Division Series thanks in part to a well-built team that won 103-games this past season. Further negative thoughts were further dispelled when the Cubs rallied in Game 4 to beat the Giants and win the NLDS.
But there are always whispers. Thoughts of playoff of the past. It’s hard not to completely dismiss them from a team that hasn’t won a World Series in 108 years. The continuing franchise narrative of negativity comes up more when October rolls around and when the team’s story starts to go national.
Well Jon Lester is ready to debunk any of those stories you might have. Along with being the Cubs’ top starter in the 2016 postseason, he’s taken the task of shooting down any talk of the negativity that’s hung over the team for over a century.
“So I think the biggest thing is nobody really cares in there about a curse or a goat or anything else, you know what I mean? I mean, like it is what it is. It’s what you make of it,” said Lackey when asked first about dealing with the negative history around a team and how he dealt with that a member of the Red Sox from 2006-2014. “So, we’re not going to let — if we make a mistake, we’re not going to blame it on a curse or anything else like that. We’re going to blame it on ourselves and be accountable for it and move on to the next play or the next moment.”
“So, plus, I think we got too many young guys in there that don’t even know what that stuff is, you know what I mean? So, it’s almost better to play naive and just go out and worry about us, worry about the Cubs and not anything else in the past or, like I said, any animals.”
That came a few hours before the Cubs’ Game 4 victory over the Giants in which the team rallied from three runs down in the ninth inning to win 6-5. It’s a win that dispelled some of the negative feelings that had were drummed up after a 13-inning loss to the Giants in Game 3 and a sub-par eight innings in Game 4.
But they are still there. Perceptions take time to chance and many of the reporters heading to Chicago to cover Lester’s start on Saturday against the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. He was asked about it again and the Game 1 starter once again tried to knock down the thought that a higher power has influence over this team.
Lester was quick to use Game 4 as the perfect example.
“Nobody in that dugout was ready to give up yet. So, we just kept grinding. And I think that’s what you have to do, even as a fan I think you just have to kind of grind along with our team,” said Lester on Friday. Like I said before, we’re going to make mistakes. Stuff is going to happen. It’s baseball. It’s part of the game.
“And like I said before, it doesn’t mean it’s a curse or it’s a black cat or a goat or whatever else it is, it’s us making physical mistakes and we’re going to move on and move on to the next moment and hopefully we’re able to have that next moment and do better.”
No one did better than Lester on the mound this season or in the NLDS for the Cubs. The lefty incredibly effective against the Giants in Game 1 as he pitched eight shutout innings while scattering just five hits and striking out five. That improved his overall record in the playoffs in his career to 7-6 with a 2.63 ERA.
If he can win tonight against Los Angeles he would give the Cubs their first NLCS Game 1 win since 1984 and continue a strong 2016 for Lester in which he has a combined record of 20-5.
“You spend a full year together and you grind through that season and you make the playoffs, you come back in the spring. I mean, we had, what, two new guys come in? Three new guys? One that I already knew,” said Lester of 2016. “So, yeah, you’re obviously going to feel more comfortable that second year as opposed to just getting thrown into that first year with a whole new atmosphere in front of you.”
While the pitcher tries to make sure the atmosphere around the Cubs is changing – one mention of the curses at a time.