Jon Lester's self-immolation on the mound in Sunday's 15-7 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park was in keeping with his self-immolation in the clubhouse afterward.
His confidence was at its lowest after he suffered the worst loss of the worst season of his career, alllowing 11 runs and 4 home runs (both career highs) before departing with none out in the fifth after giving up a two-run homer to Travis Snider.
"We want him to get better,’’ Sox manager Bobby Valentine said after Lester absorbed his third consecutive loss to drop to 5-8 on the season. "He’s a great pitcher, a great guy, and I feel this as much as he does. I know he’s taking it tough.’’
Over his last three starts, Lester has been unable to pitch more than 41/3 innings, while allowing 21 earned runs on 25 hits and five home runs
"It's never good. It's embarrassing,'' Lester said after the Sox were swept by the Blue Jays and traded places with last-place Toronto in the American League East.
``I’ve let my team down a lot this year,’’ said Lester, who did so from the very start Sunday when Brett Lawrie clobbered a homer over the Green Monster on the first pitch of the game, triggering a five-run eruption on four hits. ``It’s hard for me to walk around this clubhouse and look guys in the eye right now.
``I’m not pitching well and I’m not doing my job,'' he said. "We scored seven runs today. We should’ve won this game.''
Lester earned the ignominious distinction of becoming the first Red Sox pitcher to allow 11 runs in a game since Doug Bird on May 24, 1983, a year before Lester was born.
When he departed the game, an announced Fenway Park crowd of 37,737 lustily booed him on his way to the dugout. Asked if he was considering any changes to the rotation, Valentine replied, ``This is no time to discuss those things.’’
Afterward, Lester’s teammates rallied around him.
``However many starts he has the rest of the way, we’re not going to win the World Series if Jonny is not himself and if I’m not myself,’’ said Dustin Pedroia, who sidled up next to Lester in the dugout to give him a pep talk after the first inning.
“He’s not going anywhere. We love him and I’ll play behind him any day of the week. I just wanted him to make sure he knew that because everybody goes through tough times, we all do. There’s times when you’re not playing well, or I’m not swinging the bat well or whatever, it’s just good to have a reassurance from your teammates that we’ve got your back.’’
The Red Sox are now 7-13 in the 20 games Lester has pitched. Worse, the Sox are now 13-23 (.361) in the 36 games Lester and Josh Beckett have pitched combined.
``It’s obviously not the highest that it’s ever been,’’ Lester said of his confidence level. "But the thing is, nobody is going to feel sorry for me. I’ve got to go out and pitch. I’ve got to pitch better.
``So I’m not worried about my confidence, I’m not worried about my mechanics, I’m not worried about anything but trying to execute pitches. And I’m not doing that.’’