Although he struggled to find his rhythm earlier in the season, Jon Lester continues to pitch like the veteran ace the Chicago Cubs were counting on.
Seeking his fifth straight victory, the left-hander looks to keep Chicago from losing three straight for the first time since late July on Wednesday night against the visiting Detroit Tigers.
Lester (8-8, 3.21 ERA) was 4-5 with a 4.25 ERA through his first 12 starts after allowing five runs in a season low-tying 4 1-3 innings of a 6-0 road loss to Detroit on June 9.
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He's since posted a 2.20 ERA over 11 outings. Lester has gone 4-0 with a 2.04 ERA in his past five, giving up two runs in six innings while striking out 10 in Thursday's 9-2 home win over Milwaukee.
However, he's worked on pickoff throws between starts after allowing the Brewers steal five bases. Lester had an errant pickoff attempt and has had trouble throwing to bases throughout his career.
"We all know what's going on here," Lester, who leads the majors in stolen bases allowed with 35, told MLB's official website. "I just have to do a better job. ... I'll continue to improve."
The Tigers (57-61) did not steal a base off him in the first meeting and have only stolen five over their last 12 games heading into the finale of this two-game series.
Lester has dropped his last three starts against Detroit and is 2-5 with a 5.25 ERA in 10 career meetings. Miguel Cabrera had two hits off him in June, leaving the star slugger at 14 for 25 with a home run and four doubles all-time in the matchup.
Ian Kinsler has hit .229 against Lester, though he's batting .419 in 12 career games versus Chicago. He had a season-high five hits and a home run in Tuesday's 10-8 win.
Jose Iglesias matched a career high with four hits while Anthony Gose had three and J.D. Martinez hit his 31st home run for the Tigers, who won for the eighth time in nine visits to Wrigley Field.
Chicago (67-50) fell three games behind wild-card leading Pittsburgh and had its lead over San Francisco for the second spot cut to three following its third loss in 18 games. The Cubs haven't lost three in a row since getting swept at home by Philadelphia from July 24-26.
Daniel Norris (2-2, 4.24) will try to help the Tigers win back-to-back games for only the third time since July 9 in his fourth start since being acquired from Toronto in the David Price trade. The left-hander gave up three earned runs over 6 1-3 innings and did not get the decision in last Wednesday's 7-4 win at Kansas City.
In his only game against with Chicago, Jorge Soler had the sole hit off Norris in his one scoreless inning of relief at Rogers Centre in September.
After finishing with three hits in Sunday's 3-1 loss to the White Sox that snapped a nine-game winning streak, the Cubs got back on track with 11 on Tuesday. Chris Coghlan hit his third home run in as many games and Kyle Schwarber added a three-run shot.
Coghlan has gone 5 for 10 with two homers and five RBIs in his three games against Detroit this season. Schwarber has homered six times with 18 RBIs in 14 games this month.