CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon could tell Jon Lester wasn't quite right on Thursday when he saw the dip in velocity of the left-hander's pitches.
Lester had to leave the game against the Reds after 1 2/3 innings after experiencing left lat tightness. He was charged with nine runs -- seven earned -- in a game the Cubs would go on to lose, 13-10. Lester was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago to be examined by the team orthopedic specialist. The Cubs did not expect an update until Friday.
"I'm hoping he's all right -- he's our ace, he's our guy," reliever Mike Montgomery said of Lester.
"When a pitcher of his stature is potentially injured, of course, you're concerned," Maddon said. "I don't want to jump to conclusions either. Let's go through the proper procedures, let the doctor see him and go from there. Right now, I'm not going to jump to any negative conclusions."
Lester needed six pitches to retire the side in the first, but the second inning was a different story. The Reds rattled off four straight hits to open the inning, including RBI singles by Scooter Gennett and Phillip Ervin.
Lester signaled to the Cubs dugout after Suarez's hit and athletic trainer Ed Halbur then came out to the mound. Lester was pulled after throwing 46 pitches, 40 of those in the second.
"The thing I saw today was that the velocity was down on everything a little bit," Maddon said. "They had a lot of soft hits over the infielders' heads. [The Reds hitters] were able to fight [the pitches] off and get them over the infielders' heads."
It's the second shortest outing of the season for the left-hander, who lasted two-thirds of an inning on July 9 against the Pirates.
Catcher Alex Avila said he didn't know anything was wrong with Lester until the pitcher stopped the game in the second.
"To be honest, other than Votto's home run, which played well with the wind today, they really didn't hit the ball too hard, just perfectly placed," Avila said. "It just seemed like he was making good pitches and they were well placed base hits. It was unfortunate he had to come out of the game. Hopefully, he'll be better and be back soon."
In the first half of the season, Cubs starters Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey both missed time because of injuries. They need Lester to stay in the National League Central race -- and also need the bullpen to get back on track. Justin Wilson, acquired at the non-waiver Trade Deadline from the Tigers with Avila, walked the only two batters he faced and now has a 6.75 ERA with the Cubs. Justin Grimm took the loss on Thursday, serving up Ervin's two-run, go-ahead homer in the seventh.
"Today was a bad day and we have to get a couple guys straightened out," Maddon said of the relievers. "I don't have any solid answers [about Wilson]. We just have to get him on firm ground as soon as we possibly can. He's physically fine."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.