Jon Lester’s performance wasn’t dominant, but it was plenty good enough
|04.01.13 at 6:45 pm ET|
NEW YORK – John Farrell described Jon Lester’s outing as “a good starting point.” That, along with the Red Sox’ 8-2 win over the Yankees Monday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, is good enough for the manager … and the pitcher.
“It’s big, obviously a lot nicer than last couple of years to be on top 1-0 instead of going through a whole road trip without a win again,” said Lester, citing the Red Sox’ 1-5 start to begin the 2012 season. “Big for us to come in here and, like I talked about yesterday, get on a roll and set the tone early for us.”
Lester didn’t display the dominance of a spring training that included giving up just two earned runs in 24 regulation innings, striking out 20 and walking just four. But, other than a rocky, two-run fourth inning, the lefty did resemble the pitcher of 2008-2011, rather than ’12.
The Red Sox’ starter finished his first outing of the season allowing two runs on five hits, striking out seven and walking two over five innings.
“I felt good. I had good fastball command, good cutter today. Just really didn’t have anything else,” Lester said. “Took me until the fifth inning to get a feel for a curveball or a changeup, and just really had to battle with my fastball and cutter. With that being said, I’m really pleased with the outcome with those pitches. It was good.”
Lester finished throwing 96 pitches (63 strikes), in large part due to a 34-pitch fourth inning. It was in that frame the lefty started showing some cracks.
The Yankees led off the fourth with a Kevin Youkilis double, with was followed with Vernon Wells’ walk. The hosts loaded the bases on Ichiro Suzuki’s single. Then, after a Jayson Nix strikeout, Francisco Cervelli ripped a single down the left field line, plating a pair to cut the Red Sox’ lead in half.
To Lester’s credit, he came back and got Brett Gardner to line out to right field for the inning’s final out before getting two more strikeouts in a scoreless fifth.
“With the exception of that fourth inning, where he threw 34 pitches, I thought he came out and command the strike zone down,” Farrell said. “But the lengthy inning, I thought, started to catch up to him a little bit, and after 96-plus pitches after five I felt like it was time to turn the game over to the bullpen. I thought Jon did bend, but didn’t break in that two-run inning. I think more than anything it was a good starting point for him.”
Lester’s catcher, Jarrod Saltalmacchia, agreed with his manager’s assessment, stressing the importance of getting the team’s ace out on the right foot.
“He looked good,” Saltalamacchia said of Lester, who didn’t get a win in ’12 until his fourth start of the season. “Real downward angle with his fastball, mixing in the offspeed stuff. Made some big pitches when he needed to. But all in all, just staying down, keeping it aggressive … and off balance.
“I mean it’s important to all of us, not just Jon. We all feel for him. We all feel for what he’s been through the past year and we know that’s not him. We know that he’s the guy you saw today. It’s nice to see him out there just throwing like he always has.”
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