It’s no coincidence that Jon Lester’s resurgence has coincided with the St. Louis Cardinals’ breakout.
The deal to acquire Jon Lester looks like the steal of the trade deadline.
Since being acquired, Lester has been a revelation for the St. Louis Cardinals, allowing two or less runs in seven of his 10 starts, with the team going 6-4 in those outings. He continued that strong performance on Monday, pitching six innings and allowing only two runs in a 5-2 victory against the Milwaukee Brewers, extending the Cardinals’ winning streak to nine games.
It marked the 200th victory of Lester’s career and underscored just how good he has been since being acquired from the Washington Nationals. When president of baseball operations John Mozeliak acquired Lester, he envisioned him eating innings to aid the rotation and avoid further taxing an already overworked bullpen. Instead, Lester has saved the Cardinals’ season, and stepped up when his name has been called upon every fifth day.
While Lester deserves much of the credit for his performance, he has also benefited from his surroundings. He has a 4.02 ERA, though with a 5.54 FIP, an indicator that the Cardinals’ No. 1 ranked defense has helped Lester keep runs off the board when balls are put into play. J.A. Happ, who was also acquired at the trade deadline, has also benefited from this — though not to the degree of Lester.
When the Cardinals identified Lester as a target, and began their pursuit of him, they were familiar with him from his time with the Chicago Cubs. He pitched in big games and appeared in the World Series. They envisioned his veteran presence helping not just the rotation, but the entire team, as they looked to get their season back on track as they were 8.5 games out of a postseason spot on Aug. 10.
Lester, 37, has far exceeded expectations since being acquired on July 30. He has stepped up in the biggest games, fueling their surge to a three game lead for the second National League wild card spot, and picked his 200th career win in the process.
“Two hundred wins, that’s a heck of a milestone,” manager Mike Shildt said. “And he’s not done. He’s got a lot more in him.”