When is a yip no longer considered a yip? When does it become something more, like a mental hurdle that will never be cleared again? That’s what’s happened to Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester and his ongoing battle to throw a baseball from the mound to first base. He just can’t do it any more.
Lester once went 66 straight starts, a span of almost two seasons, without ever attempting to throw the ball to first to pick off a runner. The first time he did it, in a game against the Cincinnati Reds in 2015, he threw the ball so high over the first baseman’s head that not even Yao Ming could have snagged it.
Sunday night, Lester’s chronic inability to hit his first baseman’s glove reared its ugly head again. When Colorado Rockies outfielder Brandon Barnes laid down a bunt in the eighth inning, Lester fielded the ball cleanly before throwing it directly to the ground. The ball somehow had enough forward momentum to dribble its way to first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who scooped it up a millisecond before Barnes touched first for the out.
Still, hearing a Cubs fan yell “OH MY GOD” as the ball leaves Lester’s hand is all you need to know about the ace’s struggles with one of baseball’s most common plays.