Sorry about that headline.
It implies that I have some idea how the de facto ace of the Red Sox returned to form. I don't.
The fact is, Jon Lester finally was himself last night when he pitched six-and-a-third innings, gave up seven hits and held a very strong Tampa Bay Rays lineup to just two runs en route to a 6-2 Red Sox victory.
The southpaw from Washington state struck out eight and walked nary a Rays batter.
In eight previous starts, dating back to a June 6 game against the Rangers, Lester pitched an average of about five-and-a-half innings. In those games, he produced an average of just over six K's. The pitch count, 96, was down last night, too.
One clue as to why Lester looked like the guy that started the season 5-0: Extra rest. In his previous starts, he had been working on 4-5 days rest. Against the Rays at Fenway Park last night, Lester was working on nine days rest.
Another clue? Pitch selection. The Boston Globe reports Lester relied less on his usual go-to out pitch - the cutter.
"I think if you talk to anybody that's going to face me, that's always
in the back of their mind as far as the pitch I'm going to try and get
you out with," Lester told the Globe. "If you're able to maybe show it a
little earlier, and show some pitches that you normally don't throw
later in the count, you get some mis-hits or some swing-and-misses. It's
a game of adjustments. You always have to constantly make adjustments,
and we're doing it right now."
Whatever it was, Lester earned his ninth win of the season. And the Red Sox are going to need the lefty, who should be the team's best pitcher, to step up and continue his dominance this season.
It looks like it's going to be awhile before Clay Buchholz returns to the mound. Fill-ins like Brandon Workman are still inexperienced. There are going to be some mistakes made.
All is good for now, though.