It’s not going to stop until there’s a resolution. The speculation and hand-wringing that has surrounded Jon Lester’s contract status, that is. Until the situation is resolved – one way or another.
And with the July 31 trade deadline rapidly approaching it will only heat up until the end of the season. Until the situation is resolved – one way or another.
The constant chatter, though, has had no detrimental effect on the left-hander’s on-field performance. And why should it? Within the next few months, some team will have Lester’s signature on a very lucrative contract that will make him a very wealthy man.
So, all he can do in the meantime is pitch. And put together one of the best stretches of his career.
He continued that Sunday afternoon, going eight shutout innings against the Royals at Fenway Park, as the Red Sox completed the three-game sweep, with a 6-0 win, stretching their win streak to four games. Lester improved his record to 10-7 as he lowered his ERA from 2.65 to 2.50. With the win on Sunday, he continued his dominance over Kansas City, improving to 7-3 with a 1.43 ERA in 11 career starts against Kansas City – the team he no-hit in 2008.
He was impressive.
“As he’s been for the majority of the season,” manager John Farrell said. “Through the month here, he’s been outstanding. Eight shutout innings here again today. I think the difference today might have been the ability to change speeds with his breaking ball. He threw a lot of strikes to both sides of the plate with his fastball, but he was able to add and subtract to his breaking ball with particularly the cutter, and then his curveball the last three starts has probably been the best stretch in quite some time.”
Since his last loss, June 8 at Detroit, he has made seven starts, posting a record of 4-0, while the Red Sox have gone 7-0 in those games. In 52 2/3 innings in that span, he has allowed just five earned runs for an ERA of 0.85. He’s given up just eight walks with 47 strikeouts, with opponents hitting just .195/.239/.232 against him.
In his last four outings those numbers become even more impressive. He’s given up just one earned run in 31 innings for an ERA of 0.29. He’s allowed just four walks with 33 strikeouts, as opponents have hit .188/.229/.214, with just three extra-base hits – all doubles – in 112 at-bats.
With his 10th with of the season on Sunday, he now has six seasons with 10 or more wins, matching Bruce Hurst and Mel Parnell for the most such seasons in team history.
Safe to say there’s been little to distract Lester.
"He's been a model for others to witness as players get to that stage in their career," Farrell said. "I think in a professional manner, he's been very forthright in not wanting it to be a distraction to his teammates or to us as a team. And he's been able to go out and maintain that high level of focus.
I’ve always known Jon to be a very confident pitcher. As he’s advanced in his career, he’s certainly more understanding of what his strengths are as a pitcher. And the rapport that he and David Ross continue to rely on is present each time they take the field.”
Ross, the 37-year-old catcher and veteran of 13 major league seasons has been around long enough to appreciate what he’s seeing from Lester this season.
“The older I get the more appreciation I have for guys that can really move the ball around,” said the 37-year-old Ross. “He does a lot – I ask him to do a whole lot sometimes. And he’s right on board. A credit to him and the way he can manage the game. He’s up there.
"I don't know if it's a zone. He's just really, really good. He's one of the top pitchers in the game and performs like it every time out. We've come to expect it out of him. It's a lot of pressure, but he's handled it well and we expect those kinds of outings from him."
All Lester can do is pitch.
"I just try to make sure I go out and pitch well for these guys in here," Lester said. "If these guys are happy with the way I'm throwing and how I'm going about my business, that's all I care about. Like I've said in the past, that other stuff will take care of itself."
It will. One way or another.