Starting pitcher Jon Lester will make one last start before the playoffs when the St. Louis Cardinals host the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.
The Cardinals (90-70) opened this three-game series at Busch Stadium with a 4-3 win on Friday, their 19th victory in their past 20 games. The Cubs (69-91) have lost 15 of their past 19 games.
Lester (7-6, 4.62 ERA) lost a bit of steam in his previous start against the Cubs last Saturday. He allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits with three walks in five innings.
His drop in velocity prompted manager Mike Shildt to remove him from the game and give him extra rest before starting this game. Lester, 37, insisted his struggle was nothing out of the ordinary.
“I’ve been doing that since 2008,” Lester said. “It’s a never-ending list of things that you have to maintain and figure out a way to make work.”
Lester is 2-1 with a 6.26 ERA in four career starts against the Cubs, a team with which he played from 2015-20.
Willson Contreras (4-for-6, double, homer, three RBIs), Matt Duffy (5-for-9, two doubles) and Ian Happ (2-for-4, double, two RBIs) have fared well in small sample sizes versus Lester.
Chicago right-hander Adrian Sampson (1-2, 2.87), who will get the nod on Saturday, pitched well against the Cardinals last Saturday. He allowed two runs on three hits — including solo homers by Tyler O’Neill and Harrison Bader — over six innings.
The well-traveled Sampson has been effective as both a reliever and starter since joining the Cubs in August.
“I love having the ball and I like having them pry it away from me,” Sampson said. “Regardless of if I come in out of the bullpen or start or whatever, no matter what, I want the ball. I feel like I can throw as long as I (want). Taking me out of the game is something that I want to make it hard for the manager to do.”
The Cubs appreciate that bulldog attitude.
“Let’s give him credit where credit’s due,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “It’s not all about development all the time. It’s about winning baseball games. We’re in the big leagues. He’s done a nice job. Every time he’s taken the mound, he’s given us a chance to win ballgames.”
Sampson is 1-0 with a 2.38 ERA in two career outings against the Cardinals. While Bader (4-for-5, homer) has hit well against Sampson, Yadier Molina (0-for-5), Paul Goldschmidt (0-for-5) and Tommy Edman (0-for-3) have not.
Molina (sore shoulder) and shortstop Edmundo Sosa (bruised wrist) were out of the starting lineup again Friday. Sosa came off the bench as a pinch-hitter and both players are possibilities to play in Saturday’s game.
Outfielder Nick Martini and second baseman David Bote joined the Cubs’ lengthy injury list for an undisclosed issue, reportedly tied to COVID-19 protocols. Tyler Ladendorf stepped up from the Triple-A Iowa roster to replace Bote and Johneshwy Fargas stepped up to replace Martini.
Veteran pitcher Zach Davies was shut down for the year. Cory Abbott arrived from Iowa to start in his place Friday.
–Field Level Media