Cubs' Jon Lester laments being in 'rut' after latest shaky outing

CHICAGO -- Another poor start for Cubs lefty Jon Lester has him down but not out. Lester gave up eight runs to the Washington Nationals in 3 innings on Saturday, ballooning his second-half ERA to 10.33 after compiling a 2.58 mark in the first half.

"At the end of the day the results aren't there, and this is a results-driven industry" Lester said after the Cubs 9-4 loss. "I'm not doing my job."

Lester gave up three home runs, extending a streak of allowing at least one long ball to eight straight starts, a personal high and the longest by a Cubs lefty since Shawn Estes in 2003. He gave up 10 hits overall -- nine on his fastball -- but despite the ugly numbers the Cubs don't see a lot wrong with him. He's healthy and his velocity is consistent with his first half.

"When I watch from the side I don't see anything differently," manager Joe Maddon said. "If a guy is injured or there is a dramatic drop off in something, then I'd be concerned. He looks the same to me."

Lester described what he's going through as a "rut" in which he is making the wrong pitch at the wrong time. In one instance Saturday, he thought he had struck out Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmermanon a check swing in the first inning, only to give up a home run to him on the next pitch.

"I feel like I struck out Zimmerman, and now I have to make another pitch and now I don't," Lester said. "It just kind of seems where I'm at right now. When I have to make a pitch I don't. ... It's been my whole year. When I do have a hitter on the defense I'm not putting them away."

Some advanced metrics predicted this second half regression though Maddon said he wasn't given anything definitive by Cubs brass to account for it.

"I have heard different things, about the ball being hit hard [in the first half] and all that stuff," Maddon said. "That happens to everybody. None of our guys have come to me and said, 'He's not doing this or he's doing that.' I have not heard that from anybody."

Lester was the backbone of a shaky staff in the first half, but now he said he views himself as the weak link.

"The rotation has been throwing the ball well, and now I'm the guy that's not," he said. "That's a bad feeling."

In reality, the Cubs rotation is barely hanging on, ranking ninth in starter's ERA in the National League, and that was before Lester's meltdown against the Nationals. Though the outlook seems bleak, the all-star isn't treating his situation any different than any other slump.

"This is the ebbs and flows of the season," Lester said. "Unfortunately, I'm pretty down right now as far as where I've been pitching. ... I've been through it before. I've come out the other end just fine.

"When you're not getting results, you immediately want to run to something. You want to run to tipping, you want to run to mechanical, you want to run to whatever. Sometimes it's really nothing. There have been times I haven't thrown the ball well and I've been, I guess, pretty open to [admitting] that. ... I don't want to cop out on anything. I guess I'm in this rut right now. I don't know."

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