Jon Lester has gone up against two Cy Young winners to begin the season. He’s 2-0.
Yet while Lester’s Opening Day performance in the Bronx against CC Sabathia was fairly solid, Sunday’s victory over R.A. Dickey and the Blue Jays was much more impressive.
Lester never faced any trouble on Sunday, as the Red Sox’ offense gave him a five-run lead before he ever took the mound and continued to pile on throughout the game. But when the Sox weren’t crushing baseballs all over Rogers Centre, Lester looked very sharp while twirling seven shutout innings.
Lester gave up five hits and struck out six. His cutter was its usual effective self, and the lefty’s offspeed stuff kept hitters off balance. That’s especially encouraging, as Lester noted after the game that it usually takes six, seven or even eight starts before his breaking ball really starts to click.
“It was better. I was able to throw some curveballs for strikes, both ahead and behind,” Lester said. “I threw a couple good changeups today. It was a lot better.”
Lester’s Opening Day start against the Yankees wasn’t anything to sneeze at. He worked five innings of two-run ball, struck out seven and, most importantly, got the win. It still left a lot to be desired, though, as the Red Sox have come to expect more than five innings from their No. 1 starter.
Sunday’s start was much more ace-like, and a big reason is because Lester was much more economical than he was on Opening Day. It took him 96 pitches to get through five innings in his first start, but the southpaw threw 100 while working through seven frames against the Jays. Plus, he didn’t walk anyone.
Lester admitted after the game that the big lead the Red Sox established allowed him to be more aggressive, so that certainly played a role in controlling his pitch count. The left-hander was sure not to let the lead creep into his mind too much, though.
“The biggest thing is the mentality. You got to stay sharp,” Lester said. “You got to act like it’s a 0-0 game and try to keep executing pitches.”
Lester did execute his pitches, despite a few lengthy half innings in the dugout due to Boston’s offensive onslaught. If the game had been closer, it wouldn’t have been shocking to see manager John Farrell stick with the starter for another inning.
Wins are the only thing that matter at the end of the day, but they’ll come much easier for the Red Sox when Lester pitches like he did on Sunday.
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