If Jon Lester had appeal to a team contending before postseason, he's done nothing but increase that over the last few weeks.
Boston Red Sox
Lester is 5-1 with a 1.41 ERA in his last nine starts (and has an 0.85 ERA in his last seven) after throwing eight scoreless innings against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday. In his last six starts at Fenway Park, he has allowed three earned runs in 44 innings, with 49 strikeouts and five walks.
Lester is now 7-3 with a 1.43 ERA in 11 career starts against the Royals. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that his ERA is the lowest for any active pitcher with at least 10 starts against an opponent (Clayton Kershaw ranks second with a 1.48 ERA in 22 starts against the San Francisco Giants).
Lester now has four starts against the Royals in which he held them scoreless and pitched at least eight innings, including his no-hitter in 2008. All of those starts have been at Fenway Park, where Lester is 6-0 with a 0.86 ERA in seven starts lifetime against the Royals.
What’s going well
One of the pitches that has been money for Lester has been his fastball, particularly when it has been located in the middle or upper-third of the strike zone (or above it).
The Royals were 0 for 7 with four strikeouts (with a walk and hit by pitch) in their plate appearances against it on Sunday.
In this nine-start run, opponents have made 80 outs and reached 18 times via hit, walk, error or hit by pitch against that pitch in that area.
Prior to that, they had made 76 outs and reached base 31 times.
Lester has also gotten great mileage out of his curveball. He has 22 strikeouts on the last 66 two-strike curveballs he’s thrown (a 33 percent “putaway rate” after striking out 12 with his first 60 two-strike curves (20 percent “putaway rate”).
Lester had not allowed a hit with his curveball in his last five starts, but did give up two on Sunday (he also got seven outs with the pitch).
The other big difference for Lester is in how he’s fared with runners in scoring position. Opposing hitters started the season 20 for 60 against him in those situations. They are since 6 for their last 48 and 3 for their last 34.
Stat of the Day
Lester has also matched a career best by allowing two earned runs or fewer in seven straight starts.
Lester now has a pair of streaks of seven straight starts in which he allowed two earned runs or fewer. This is his first one since 2006.
The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Lester is one of three Red Sox lefties to have multiple such streaks of at least seven straight starts. The other two are Dutch Leonard and Babe Ruth.