Ace of Cubs has to deal lifeline

Cubs star Jon Lester pitching in the World Series Game 1 loss against the Indians. The two-time World Series champion returns to the mound in Game 6, which Chicago have to win to keep their title dreams alive.
Cubs star Jon Lester pitching in the World Series Game 1 loss against the Indians. The two-time World Series champion returns to the mound in Game 6, which Chicago have to win to keep their title dreams alive.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Lester under pressure to keep Chicago in World Series but will not alter his mindset

CHICAGO • Game 5 of the World Series will be do-or-die for the Chicago Cubs but starting pitcher Jon Lester said he would treat today's (Singapore time) must-win game the same as any other as his team try to keep the Cleveland Indians from clinching the Major League Baseball championship.

Appearing in their first World Series for 71 years, the Cubs, who trail 3-1, are on the brink of elimination after a second successive loss - 7-2 - before a hushed Wrigley Field crowd on Saturday.

"I don't think you can really take it any different than any other start, whether you're tied or whether you're down or up," said Lester, who was the Game 1 loser in Cleveland.

"I think you have to have the same mindset going into it.

"It's hard enough to pitch this time of year or play this time of year and be successful. I think if you're down 3-1 and you're going in there saying 'you have to do this, you have to do that' to try to stay alive, I think you've kind of already been beaten."

A National League Cy Young candidate, Lester posted a sparkling 19-5 regular season record and carried his form into the postseason.

Twice a World Series champion with the Boston Red Sox, the 32-year-old left-hander also brings experience into a tense must-win clash to force a Game 6 back in Cleveland tomorrow (Wednesday morning, Singapore time).

Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he would want no other pitcher on the hill for Game 5 to face Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer.

"I mean, to have a guy that's a been-there-done-that kind of a guy, and he's been very successful, been a World Series champion, he knows what the feeling is like, he knows what it takes," Maddon said.

"He's just been a different cat all year. More comfortable in his Cubs skin this year and you could see that from day one. He's been outstanding."

The Cubs now need three successive wins to claim their first championship since 1908.

They won three in a row to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series, having come back from 2-1 down.

"We've done it before," said third baseman Kris Bryant. "So we could do it again for sure."

But the stakes are higher this time round and the chips stacked against them.

Only six teams have fought back from 3-1 down to win the World Series, the last in 1985 when the Kansas City Royals overhauled the St Louis Cardinals.

"Obviously there is urgency," Bryant said. "We have to win every game the rest of the way out."

Infielder Addison Russell said the Cubs knew that "stuff could hit the fan" in the World Series, but they needed to find a way to answer the Indians' runs.

"I think our team is better than just one run or two runs," Russell said. "We just have to get out there and play tomorrow."

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2016, with the headline 'Ace of Cubs has to deal lifeline'. Print Edition | Subscribe