Jon Lester is a World Series champion, a two-time All-Star and in the middle of a long-term contract. At 28, the lefthanded ace of the Red Sox should be at the peak of his career, a time to look back on someday and treasure.
Heck, he’s even doing commercials for pickup trucks and banks.
Instead it has been a season of misery for Lester, one of good starts followed by bad ones and sleepless nights wondering what happened and how to fix it.
Friday night’s 4-1 loss against the Atlanta Braves was the latest example.
Lester allowed only three runs over seven innings but gave up 10 hits along with an assortment of line-drive outs. Lester hadn’t faced the Braves since the second start of his career in 2006. But they hit him hard in every inning.
Lester is 4-5 with a 4.48 earned run average. The Red Sox are 6-9 in the games he has started and anger is replacing frustration.
“I’m getting tired of the same old [expletive]. I’m making good pitches and they’re getting hit. I don’t know what else to do,” Lester said. “The process is there, I’m just not getting results. It’s the same book, different chapter for me.”
Wins and losses do not necessarily reflect a starter’s performance. But it’s worth noting that Lester has one victory in the last month. If the Red Sox are to contend this season, the rotation must improve and it starts with Lester.
Lester has cut down on walks, an occasional problem in recent seasons. But he has allowed an average of 9.7 hits per nine innings, 2.2 more than the previous two years.
Some of that is bad luck. But some of it is leaving pitches where they can be hit.
“I don’t know,” said Lester when asked about his abnormal season. “I’m not up in the zone; I’m down in the corners and still getting whacked around. I’m at a loss right now.”
Lester said his mechanics are fine and that he’s healthy.
“I’m throwing the ball fine. I’m just not getting the results. I don’t think it’s mental,” he said. “I’m mentally prepared and physically prepared every start and I go out and compete. That’s all I can do. I can’t worry about anything else.”
Like teammates Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez, Lester is an under-performing star. Manager Bobby Valentine is treading carefully in these cases.
“A lot of really good pitches got hit,” said Valentine, whose team had a five-game win streak snapped. “I thought he threw the ball extremely well. He could have won that game very easily.”
• Pedroia is 9 of 62 (.145) in 15 games since missing six games with a torn muscle in his right thumb and is hitless in his last 10 at-bats. The Sox may regret not putting Pedroia on the disabled list when they had a chance. His batting average is down to .260 and he has only 26 RBIs.
“I thought his swings tonight were pretty good,” said Valentine, who doesn’t plan to drop Pedroia out of the second spot. “They’re pitching him tough. He hasn’t got pitches he can drive. He’ll get hot. Hotter than a firecracker.”
• Will Middlebrooks is 7 of 10 with two homers, three doubles and eight RBIs in his last five games. He has reached base safely in 19 of his last 20 games.
• Roger Clemens was in the Monster Seats for a while. The Sox put him on the scoreboard and there was a mix of boos and cheers. Clemens was recently acquitted in the federal perjury case pertaining to his alleged use of performance enhancing drugs.
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