The Cubtober Diary: No fear, just focus for Lester

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CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 30: Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs warms up before Game Five of the 2016 World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 30, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – If the fans of the Cubs needed some wisdom from their leader, now is the time.

Luckily Joe Maddon had a little bit for the fans before Game 5 as his team faces elimination after two-straight World Series losses.

“Please be nervous. Absolutely,” told the fan during his media session before Game 5 on Sunday at Wrigley Field. “You should be nervous. We have to win tonight, so go ahead and be nervous. It’s up to us to get you beyond that moment and get back to Cleveland.

“But, listen, I’m very pleased and proud of our group, period, over the last two years. I think all of our Cub following feels the same way.”

Not his starting pitcher. Not in any way, shape or form. Frankly, he’s been here too much.

Jon Lester sure isn’t afraid of any pressure, even with the season on the line when he takes the mound Sunday night at Wrigley Field against the Indians, needing to win or else the season comes to an end.

“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 when asked about a start in the playoffs when his team is trailing on Saturday.  “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, you know?”

Lester should.

Sunday will be his 21st appearance in the playoffs in his career and his fifth start in the World Series. Already in the postseason Lester has a 2-1 record with a 2.60 ERA and was named the MVP of the National League Championship Series.

At the moment, however, Lester is more concerned about his performance in the first game of the World Series in Cleveland. In his only loss of the post season in Game 1, the right-hander uncharacteristically walked two batters, hit a batter, and let two runs in during the first inning.

It was a catalyst to an off night for him and the Cubs who lost the opener 6-0, one of three losses the team has through four games of the series.

“The first inning. That was the game,” said Lester of what he wants to change this time as he faces the Indians again. “So like I said, I don’t mind giving up hits and giving up homers. It’s the walks and the hit-by-pitch that really haunt me in that first inning.

“So you can’t give up free base runners, especially this time of year. You just give them more opportunities to see you. You have to make more pitches. You may have to show your hand a little bit earlier in what you’re trying to do to guys.”

But the Indians already know Lester won’t be afraid of the moment. The fans should feel the same.