Dodgers fail to get inside of Jon Lester's head in loss to Cubs

The Dodgers tried to get into the head of Jon Lester, but Lester and the Cubs got the final laugh in an 8-4 victory in Game 5, which gives them a 3-2 lead in the National League Championship Series.

Joc Pederson dropped a two-out bunt toward the mound in the second inning Thursday night.

Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester fielded the ball, spun and short-armed a one-hop throw to first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who made the catch for the third out.


As Lester walked off the mound, he glared toward the Dodgers dugout with a look that was part smirk, part disdain.

Catcher David Ross surveyed the scene and liked what he saw.

"He loves the energy, he thrives on that," Ross said of Lester.

"We've seen just about every trick in the book this year with guys trying to mess with him, and when they do, it kind of fires him up.

"He feeds off that emotion. It gets him locked in, and you saw that tonight. He really dialed it up."

Lester has a well-known case of the "yips," a mental block that prevents him from making pick-off throws and throwing accurately to bases on bunts and ground balls.

The Dodgers tried to expose it by squaring to bunt more than 10 times and taking huge leads off bases, daring him to throw.

But Lester doesn't scare easily.

He ignored the Dodgers' many attempts to rattle him and cemented his reputation as one of baseball's best big-game pitchers, allowing one run and five hits across seven innings in the Cubs' 8-4 victory over the Dodgers in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.

Lester, who struck out six and walked one, improved to 8-6 with a 2.50 earned-run average in 19 career postseason games.

The Cubs took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and moved to within one win of their first World Series berth since 1945.

"That's what he does — he's a big-game pitcher, he has a lot on his resume," Ross said.

"We expect big things from him when he takes the bump, and he never disappoints.

"This guy is a true competitor in every sense of the word. He battled out there and made pitches when he had to."


Asked if he saw anything Thursday night from the Dodgers that he hadn't seen this season, Cubs Manager Joe Maddon said, "No," eliciting laughter in the postgame interview room.

"There's always plotting going on, and like I said before, the most important thing is that Jon throws the ball well to home plate," Maddon said.

"That gets overlooked. I don't want him to get caught up in the minutiae of everything else. Do what you do best.

"What he does best is he throws pitches very well, up to 94 mph where he wants to, and then he has a great cutter and a curveball.

"So why would I want him to get mentally infiltrated with trying to hold runners on if he's not comfortable? Let's focus on our strength first and let the other guys cover what we perceive to be a weakness."

Lester seemed a little distracted in the first inning, when he walked leadoff man Enrique Hernandez on four pitches, three of which the Dodgers second baseman squared to bunt on.

Lester, with Hernandez dancing 15 to 20 feet off first, struck out Justin Turner.

After Corey Seager singled to put two on with one out, Lester got Carlos Ruiz to fly to right field and Howie Kendrick to ground to third, ending the inning.

Lester gave up his only run in the fourth.

Kendrick doubled to left with one out, took a 35-foot lead off second before stealing third and scored when Rizzo, with the infield in, bobbled Adrian Gonzalez's grounder and had to settle for the out at first.

That tied the score at 1, but Lester did not allow a runner to reach second in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

With a 3-1 lead, a man on first and his pitch count at 104, Lester got pinch-hitter Yasmani Grandal to ground to second to end the inning.

Gonzalez also bunted on Lester in the seventh, but he pushed his bunt past the mound and to second baseman Javier Baez, who made a superb bare-hand grab and off-balance throw to first for the first out of the inning.

"I'd prefer Adrian Gonzalez and Joc Pederson to try to bunt," Lester said.

"They're 30-homer guys, so I'd rather them put the ball on the ground and let these guys try to field it and take my chances that way."

Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna