|Jon Lester: ‘I took a lot of positives from tonight’||08.03.12 at 12:17 am ET|
It wasn’t great. It wasn’t bad either. But it was certainly a step in the right direction for one of the most scrutinized pitchers in baseball.
Not a lot of positives came out of the Red Sox’ 5-0 loss to the Twins on Thursday night. In fact, there might have only been two, one being the continued hot hitting ways of Adrian Gonzalez, who registered the team’s only two hits of the night.
But the biggest storyline of Thursday night’s loss came from the pitching mound. It’s no secret that Jon Lester is having the worst season of his major league career, but if the Red Sox ever needed an encouraging sign on this night, the southpaw certainly gave it to them.
After delivering a solid performance his last time out, giving up four runs on only four hits to the Yankees in which he generated a no-decision, he came back looking to build on some success that he’s barely got this season.
Thursday, he finished having thrown eight innings – the first time he’s done so since a complete game on May 14 – while giving up seven hits and three runs. He didn’t issue a walk for the first time since June 27 or allow a home run, which he hasn’t done since the All-Star break. Despite the loss and despite giving up four doubles, the lefty was in command for a good portion of Thursday night, something that has rarely been seen this season.
“It’s been going in the right direction, the last two for me,” Lester said. “I’m happy with that. Obviously the results still aren’t there but I’m happy with the way the ball came out of my hand. A loss is a loss, it still sucks but I took a lot of positives from tonight, I’ve got to keep building on that.”
One of the positives Lester is talking about is the re-emergence of his cutter, which played a large part in his success Thursday. He used it early and often, including the first inning, when he struck Denard Span out looking with it to begin the game before doing the same thing to the very next batter, Ben Revere.
“We made some adjustments, and I’ve gotten it back,” Lester said of his cutter. “I’m back on top of it, throwing downhill. That’s a big pitch for me obviously. I’m able to get the bad contact we got with it tonight, the swings and misses we got with it tonight, the combination with my last start, there’s a lot of positives.”
Despite the positives, there were also negatives for Lester, a common theme throughout this surprisingly uncharacteristic season. The biggest area of concern came in the third inning, when he gave up two runs on three hits, including an RBI double down the left field line from Span that proved to be the game-winner. Then, in the fifth, Lester offered what he described as a “good pitch” to Ryan Doumit, who got on top of it and laced it down the same line for the Twins’ third run.
For Lester, 2012 has offered no breaks, and Thursday was the perfect example of that. All of the runs he gave up were with two outs, and even though the Twins’ lead didn’t appear to be out of striking distance, it was on Thursday, thanks to the impressive pitching of Twins starter Samuel Deduno, who pitched six scoreless innings of two-hit ball.
“Their guy threw better than me,” Lester said. “You run into those some of the times, I’ve been on the other end of those. You’ve got to tip your hat to him.”
Lester certainly pitched well enough to win, and despite giving up the runs he did, finished strong, a rare sight this season, and even exited to cheers instead of the usual boo birds. He retired the last seven batters he faced in a row, but unfortunately for him, it wasn’t quite enough, as the offense chose one of the worst times to have one of their worst performances of the season.
Like he has all season, though, Lester wasn’t making any excuses.
“It’s been a tough year for me personally, but nobody in this clubhouse is going to feel sorry for me,” Lester said. “Nobody out there is going to feel sorry for me, so I’ve got to keep showing up every day and doing my work and that’s all I can control. I threw the hell out of the ball tonight. I don’t feel like I’ve thrown the ball that well all year.”
His manager was in agreement.
“It was just another one of those hard-luck outings,” Bobby Valentine said. “Gosh, he pitched awfully well.
“He’s pitching very well. He can get on a roll as well as anybody in this league right now. He’s gotten on a little bit of a roll of pitching well, now he can get on a roll of wins.”
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