The Los Angeles Dodgers knew that about Lester and promised to take advantage of it during the lead-up to Game 5 of the National League Championship Series:
Dodgers Roberts on Lester: "We're going to get huge leads and try to bunt on them and try to get in his psyche a little bit"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) October 20, 2016
Sure enough, Dave Roberts and crew stayed true to their word.
Leadoff man Enrique Hernandez showed bunt three times to open the game (the lineup as a whole showed bunt in upwards of a dozen times, albeit while actually laying one down just once), and the Dodgers took daring leads all night -- including some of the running variety. Generally, if a base runner is toeing the cutout, he's straying into the danger zone. Yet look at where Hernandez was in relation to the cutout:
Predictably, the Dodgers later attempted a pair of stolen bases. And woo boy, check the metrics on their leads:
Justin Turner was 28.3 feet off the base when Lester released. MLB avg for SB of 2B: 23.1. !!— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) October 21, 2016
Kendrick was safe, and he was also 34.9 (!!!) feet off 2nd when Lester threw. A miracle that Ross made it close. 1.5 sec pop time is great.— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) October 21, 2016
Howie Kendrick was basically in Pasadena when this pitch was released— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) October 21, 2016
(do save your "Pasadena is actually in that direction.." @'s) pic.twitter.com/TmWdDKWL2q
To Lester's credit, he was able to work around those leads and stolen bases -- and even a fielding opportunity that nearly resulted in disaster. As of this writing, he'd held the Dodgers to one run through five innings.
But sheesh, don't be surprised if more teams take this approach against Lester heading forward -- especially when catcher David Ross isn't around next season to serve as a back-picking deterrent.