THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

For Lester, initial outing wasn’t all bad

By Zuri Berry
Globe Staff / April 7, 2010

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If there’s one thing Terry Francona is worried about with his starting pitchers, it’s early high-pitch counts.

Jon Lester threw 94 pitches over five innings in last night’s 6-4 loss to the Yankees, and the Red Sox manager didn’t like those numbers.

“There were a lot of deep counts. A lot of deep counts,’’ Francona said. “We talk about it all the time. [The Yankees] don’t take balls the way a lot of other teams will.’’

For what it’s worth, the Yankees did swing at some bad pitches. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, they hit those pitches.

“The ball that Alex [Rodriguez] hit down the line, if he doesn’t swing, that’s ball four,’’ said Lester. “It’s in tight to him. That’s a good piece of hitting. You have to tip your hat. Second inning, [Nick] Swisher hits a ball that’s a two-seamer down and away, That’s a pitch I wanted to throw. It’s a foot outside and he hits it down the line. Once again, you have to tip your hat. It’s a good-hitting ball club and sometimes you have to take your licks like that.’’

The powerful lefthander gave up four earned runs, fanned four and drilled two batters, clocking Swisher in the toe and getting a chunk of Nick Johnson.

“Obviously I’d like to go a little bit deeper in the ballgame, but it’s the first start,’’ Lester said. “We don’t want to go out there and run up 120-130 pitches in the first ball game. I would’ve liked to have gone one more, but I pitch until the manager takes the ball out of my hand.’’

Lester, who threw 53 strikes, had difficulty getting outs from a Yankee lineup known for patience.

“I don’t think they made a whole lot of adjustments. It was just me more than anything,’’ Lester said. “I couldn’t really figure out how to put guys away tonight. And when I needed that pitch, I’d either leave it up [or] throw it in the dirt.

“I just wasn’t able to get that knockout pitch. At the same time, I felt like I made some pretty good pitches.’’

Lester faced 24 batters, leaving with the Sox trailing, 4-3. Afterward, he reflected on his performance, unsatisfied but not unhappy.

“It was a tale of two different pitchers tonight for me,’’ he said. “At times, I felt really good command-wise and stuff-wise, and other times it got away from me a little bit.

“But the good part about it is it’s only the first one. I feel really good about how I threw the ball and how I battled and now I can go forward. I would’ve liked to have won that game. But I feel decent with the way I threw the ball.’’

Zuri Berry can be reached at zberry@boston.com.

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