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Jon Lester insisted that whatever benefit he got from an extra two days of rest coming out of the All-Star break was irrelevant two starts into the second half.
"I think it's kind of all null and void now," Lester said after Sunday's 5-0 win over the Orioles in Baltimore. "Any time you go out there and pitch, obviously it takes a lot of toll on your body. The rest was good for that [first] start. Now we're back to the grind of every five days and just going out there and competing."
But after watching Lester go seven scoreless innings and match his season high with eighth strikeouts, manager John Farrell saw it a little differently. Coupled with Lester's last start against Tampa Bay, when he gave up just two runs on seven hits in 6.1 innings, Lester won back-to-back starts for the first time since the end of June.
"At the time, he needed the extra days," Farrell said. "So it certainly paid off for him. We've seen increased command, similar to what he's shown over long periods during his career. So having a couple days just getting away from that first half has sat well with him."
Globe | Rest continues to serve Jon Lester well
In one corner you have Jon Lester saying that, while nice, the rest he got isn't really contributing to his bounceback from a couple months' worth of struggles. In the other, John Farrell, saying the rest has allowed Lester to regain his command.
The stats suggest Lester's version is the truth. Through his career, Lester is actually a worse pitcher on 6+ days of rest than he is on 4 or 5. In 28 starts and 162+ innings on 6+ days of rest, Lester's WHIP is 1.48 and his ERA is 4.43. Meanwhile, on 4 and 5 days' rest his WHIPs are under 1.30 and his ERAs are under 3.90. So there's nothing to suggest that Lester is one of these guys who benefits from extra time off. If anything, the numbers suggest he's better off when sticking to a routine.
That said, it's entirely possible that the extra days allowed his body some time to recharge, and that that will benefit him going into the playoff push -- in other words that the benefit is more long term than short term. And we'll need him to pitch like he did in Baltimore -- or at least some facsimile of it -- if we want to ward off Tampa.
The Red Sox regained first place thanks to their win against the O's (and New York beating Tampa...go Yanks?), but obviously the Rays remain the biggest threat that the Red Sox face. With Wil Myers up and slugging homers left and right, the Rays pitching staff and defense are now better complemented by a stronger lineup. Tampa's offense had been better than expected through this year, but having a legit talent in the middle of the order obviously makes it more likely that they will keep producing runs.
Of course, if anyone wants to buzz Myers high and tight so he stops being so comfortable at the plate, that might change things too.
Globe | Pedroia shakes off 0-for-4 day | Orioles, Hammel fall to Red Sox 5-0 | Herald | David Ortiz outburst no joke | Jarrod Saltalamacchia keeps on playing | John Farrell keeping watch | Jon Lester, Red Sox ace test | ESPNBoston | David Ortiz goes 4 for 4 as Red Sox shut out Orioles | Papi dials up a classic | Lester looks like...well, Jon Lester | No word from MLB on Ortiz outburst | CSNNE | Ortiz goes from hothead to hot bat vs. Orioles | Lester, Red Sox beat O's in series finale, 5-0