Sunday, May 11, 2014
Lester beats Rangers without his best stuff
By Travis L. Brown | Special to ESPNBoston.com
ARLINGTON, Texas -- On paper, it appeared Red Sox starter Jon Lester was channeling the same dominance Yu Darvish found on the mound at Globe Life Park in Arlington during the first three innings Friday.
Lester faced the minimum, striking out three -- all three called by home plate umpire Bill Miller.
It seemed as if Friday was a continuation of the near flawless performance Lester posted in his last start on May 3 against Oakland, where he allowed just one hit and struck out a career-high 15.
Jon Lester limited the Rangers to three runs over seven innings to improve to 4-4.
That story wasn't the real story actually happening on the field.
Lester said he felt like he had to battle through the first four innings of the game and wasn't pleased with the way he threw the ball.
"I got away with a lot of pitches. We were able to keep them off balance enough to maybe get some foul balls and some bad contact," Lester said.
Lester went on to say he wasn't happy with his tempo or the direction and plane of his pitches in his first run through the Rangers' lineup.
It started in the bullpen, where catcher David Ross said Lester didn't have his legs under him as much as he would have liked.
Lester said there are some adjustments to be made in the much warmer climate of North Texas, where the starting temperature was 85 degrees Saturday, most easily felt in the visitors bullpen in Arlington that remains in the sun with little breeze in the early evening.
Through those first innings Lester just didn't have his best cutter and had trouble getting any life or control over his fastball, Ross said.
"He wasn't throwing the ball great for him," Ross said. "I don't want to sound negative, but I think he holds himself to a high standard and so do I."
While Lester did what he had to to keep the Rangers at bay, his team gave him some wiggle room, scoring six runs in the first three innings.
It was a welcome change as the Red Sox had averaged only 3.14 runs of support per every nine innings pitched by Lester this season.
"Like I said last start, anytime these guys can get some runs, especially early, as pitchers it relaxes you a little bit and you are able to attack guys a little more," Lester said.
Lester's biggest speed bump in the game knocked him into a comfortable rhythm, he said.
Rangers center fielder Shin-Soo Choo, starting the second wave through the Texas lineup, broke up any chance Lester had at perfection with a leadoff double in the bottom of the fourth. A walk and a sacrifice fly later, Texas was on the board and had found some life.
Lester gave up four hits in the fourth and fifth, allowing three runs and an RBI triple to designated hitter Alex Rios, but that was all the damage Lester would allow.
He downed the Rangers 1-2-3 in the sixth and got three consecutive outs after a leadoff walk in the seventh.
It surely wasn't a pretty performance like Darvish's the night prior, but it's exactly what you expect out of a veteran starter, Ross said.
"That's what he's learned to do," Ross said. "If he makes that same start as a young kid, I don't know what happens. He's getting to be a better pitcher and one of the best pitchers in the game and that's what good pitchers do. Without their good stuff they go out there and do a good job."