Jon Lester's tenure with the Chicago Cubs started on the wrong foot on opening night against the St. Louis Cardinals.
After finally finding his bearings with his new club, the left-hander is likely relishing another shot at his new division rival - and ending St. Louis' longest winning streak in five years would be an especially satisfying revenge.
He'll try to stabilize Chicago's struggling rotation Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.
Lester (1-2, 4.71 ERA) appears to be turning the corner after initially failing to deliver on the big expectations that came with his $155 million deal signed in December. He posted a 6.23 ERA in four April starts before earning his first victory against Milwaukee on Friday, scattering three hits over seven innings and retiring 15 of the final 16 batters he faced in a 1-0 win.
"This is a big day for me personally," Lester said. "I think it always goes back to your first start in spring training, your first start of the season, get that first 'W.' Obviously you would have liked it to happen a little while ago, but that's not the case ... We'll celebrate this."
Lester's tough April might not have been entirely surprising given his history. He owns a 4.05 ERA in March and April compared to a 3.51 mark in all other months.
St. Louis was the first early speed bump, reaching him for three runs and eight hits over 4 1-3 innings in a 3-0 opening night win. It was Lester's shortest outing in 20 starts.
The Cubs' rotation has been dreadful since Lester's last turn, recording a 7.29 ERA during a four-game losing streak. Kyle Hendricks was tagged for four runs over five innings for Chicago (13-12) in Tuesday's 7-4 loss.
"We're not pitching to all of our capabilities," manager Joe Maddon said. "Some guys are pitching really well, but I think there's another gear."
The Cardinals (20-6) came from behind for the fifth straight game to extend their winning streak to eight and improve upon the best start in modern franchise history. They went ahead on Mark Reynolds' sixth-inning pinch-hit double, a night after he was 2 for 3 with a grand slam.
This run is St. Louis' longest since 2010, and the club hasn't won nine in a row since Aug. 27-Sept. 5, 2004.
"I don't think there's anyone in this clubhouse that doesn't think we're going to win every night," Reynolds said.
Lance Lynn (1-2, 3.07) lost the second game of last month's series despite only giving up an earned run and two hits while striking out nine over six-plus innings in a 2-0 defeat. The right-hander struggled in his second loss on April 26 at Milwaukee, yielding six runs, but bounced back to fan 10 over seven innings in St. Louis' 2-1 win over Pittsburgh on Friday.
Lynn is 1-3 in his last five starts versus the Cubs, but 4-1 with a 1.41 ERA in six career home meetings.
Jason Heyward is 14 for 33 (.424) with 10 runs during an eight-game hitting streak against the Cubs and 7 for 12 off Lester with a home run and four doubles. Matt Holliday is 17 for 37 in his last nine matchups.