Jon Lester Sets MLB Record by Going Hitless in 1st 58 At-BatsMay 29, 2015
Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester broke an unwanted record upon flying out to deep center field in his first at-bat of Wednesday's game against the Washington Nationals, reaching 58 career at-bats without a hit, which sets a major league record for the worst start in a career, per Sportsnet Stats.
Lester's streak didn't end there, as a strikeout in the fourth inning led to 59 hitless at-bats. While he didn't help his own cause, the team didn't either, recording seven hits but no runs en route to a 3-0 shutout at the hands of Nationals ace Max Scherzer.
In Lester's defense, 36 of his at-bats (61 percent) came during his nine-year span in the American League with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics. In fact, 2015 represents the first season in which he's totaled double-digit at-bats, with his previous high (six) coming in 2013.
Lester does have 35 strikeouts among his 59 at-bats, but the record-setting flyout was a deep drive that nearly made it out of Wrigley Field, hinting at some kind of improvement.
Per NESN.com, the old record of no hits through 57 at-bats was set by fellow pitcher Joey Hamilton in 1995, and while Hamilton never became much of a threat at the plate, he did ultimately manage four home runs and a .127 batting average in 339 career at-bats.
While Lester is no Carlos Zambrano at the dish, he's still one of the Cubs' top starting pitchers, with a 3.30 ERA and 1.31 WHIP through 10 starts this season. He's also striking out batters at a high rate—61 strikeouts in 62.2 innings—most recently sitting down 10 Nationals via the K.
At some point, Lester will get the monkey off his back, and you can be sure he'll keep that ball for the trophy case as well. For now, he'll settle for posting solid performances on the mound while seeing consistent at-bats should eventually result in one of his balls falling for a base hit.
Lester remains a pivotal part of a Cubs rotation that will need to do its part to keep the team in contention when the late months of the season approach. While the club currently sits at 25-21, it's taken a bit of a downward turn recently, losing six of the last 10 games despite some solid work from the pitching staff
If their young hitters can figure it out, the Cubs could be a force to contend with for years to come. While it may or may not happen this season, the franchise finally has the tools to end the World Series drought that's haunted it since 1908.