It was a quiet few days at home for Jon Lester.
The Tacoma native had not been in Washington state since his induction into the Bellarmine Prep athletic hall of fame the day before spring training with the Chicago Cubs began in 2016.
When the Cubs arrived in town for their quick two-game series against the Seattle Mariners, he went south Sunday night to stay at his parents’ house in Puyallup while teammates hung out at the hotel in downtown Seattle.
Was it nice to be back in his own bedroom?
He laughed. “My room is just a bed and TV now.”
And on Wednesday to close out the series, Lester gave his finest performance in the big-league ballpark he lived closest to for half of his life – T-Mobile Park (formerly Safeco Park).
Lester pitched seven scoreless innings, giving up just Ryon Healy’s second-inning single. He struck out eight Mariners and issued one walk in a 97-pitch outing. The Cubs won, 11-0.
“He sets the pace, pitching-wise,” Cubs manger Joe Maddon said.
You could say Lester is in the twilight of his major-league career. He is 35. This is his 14th season with his third organization. He has won three World Series rings.
And yet, after a crummy spring training, both on the mound and physically, he has rallied to post arguably his best March/April/early May stretch of his career – 2-1 record with a 1.73 earned-run average.
“One thing about Jon that is really standing out to me now is his absolute composure and his competitive nature,” Maddon said. “He’s really slowed the game down. And he competes – he competes on another level. His self-confidence is at an all-time high right now.”
It used to be when Lester came into Seattle with the Boston Red Sox, he was mobbed by ticket requests from old buddies. It got to the point where he had to turn them down.
“Everybody got the hint,” Lester said. “Nobody asks for tickets anymore.”
On Wednesday, his rooting section at T-Mobile Park was small – his parents John and Kathie, and a cousin.
Lester has now thrown three consecutive shutouts against the Mariners, the team he rooted for as a youth. He has posted back-to-back shutouts at T-Mobile Park – with the Oakland Athletics in 2014 (six innings) and with the Cubs on Tuesday.
He is now 5-3 with a 3.91 ERA in Seattle’s ballpark for his career – and 7-4 against the Mariners overall.
“Like I said it usually doesn’t go so well here,” Lester said. “Anytime I throw the ball well, I will take it.”