Lester Has Become The Stopper For The Red Sox
Clay Buchholz has been the early story for the Red Sox rotation so far this year with his dominating start but the #1 man in the rotation, Jon Lester, has settled into an important role as the Sox’ resident “stopper”. The Sox have been plagued with inconsistency in the back end of their rotation with the injuries and otherwise ineffectiveness of John Lackey and Felix Doubront. The Sox are a combined 7-7 in starts by Doubront and Lester. They are also 2-6 in games the day before Jon Lester pitches. They’ve relied heavily on counting on Lester to stop skids and break up losing streaks before they get out of hand.
For Lester’s part he’s been holding his own in the role. He’s 4-0 coming off Red Sox losses this season and has stopped losing streaks of 3 games in each of his last two starts including a 1-hit shutout of the Blue Jays in which he only faced 28 batters in a 5-0 win at Fenway. He’s pitched well and he’s pitched confident, something that you could not say about him a year ago. It’s an interesting question to ask whether or not the 2012 version of Jon Lester would be this effective pitching after a Sox loss. His confidence wasn’t there and neither were his pitches. This year he’s dug in and looked much more poised on the mound and the Red Sox have reaped the benefits.
Despite being overshadowed by his rotation mate Buchholz Lester is off to an identical 6-0 start with a 2.72 ERA and 50 strikeouts. It’s hard to believe that this same pitcher only managed to win 9 games last season and will likely eclipse that mark by the all-star break. We all said at the beginning of the season that the Red Sox needed the old Jon Lester back if they were going to succeed and so far that is exactly what they’ve gotten. If Lester’s performance keeps up he may have his best year since 2010 when he went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA.
Of course the overlying factor in all of this is that the Sox have gotten meager production out of the back end of their rotation. Lackey hasn’t pitched horribly but he’s given up 5 runs in 1 inning in each of his last two starts (the only runs that he has given up in either game). Felix Doubront has not looked confident or in great shape. Allen Webster had one decent start and then got lit up his second time around. If at least one of these guys can get it together it would take the pressure off of Lester to go out and get a win every time out (not like he is having any trouble with that pressure now). The Sox took a step to alleviate the burden on Lester’s shoulders this week when manager John Farrell slotted Doubront between Lester and Buchholz, giving Buchholz a chance to cover for Doubront. Regardless of who pitches in front of Lester he seems confident that he’s going to come out with a W every time he’s on that mound. We haven’t seen that Jon Lester in a few years.