Call it the yips, call it nerves, a mental block or control issues. One thing is clear: When Cubs’ left-hander Jon Lester isn’t throwing at the strike zone, he looks completely lost. Routine plays to first base often end up missing their mark, and when it comes to pickoff attempts — well, he gave those up a while ago.
Saturday was different. With two outs in the fifth inning, Lester walked the Cardinals’ Tommy Pham and had started pitching to Stephen Piscotty when Pham took a generous lead off the bag. There was no stealth in Lester’s game — he turned slowly and lobbed the ball at Anthony Rizzo, who caught Pham off the base — but after two years without successfully executing a single pickoff throw, maybe he didn’t need it.
According to MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat, it was Lester’s first pickoff move since September 2015, and just the 27th of his 12-year career. Watch the full play unfold below: