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Jon Lester’s performance wasn’t dominant, but it was plenty good enough

04.01.13 at 6:45 pm ET
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NEW YORK ‘€“ John Farrell described Jon Lester‘€™s outing as ‘€œa 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.

‘€œIt’€™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. ‘€œBig 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.

‘€œI felt good. I had good fastball command, good cutter today. Just really didn’€™t have anything else,’€ Lester said. ‘€œTook 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.

‘€œWith the exception of that fourth inning, where he threw 34 pitches, I thought he came out and command the strike zone down,’€ Farrell said. ‘€œBut 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.

‘€œHe looked good,’€ Saltalamacchia said of Lester, who didn’€™t get a win in ‘€™12 until his fourth start of the season. ‘€œReal 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.

‘€œI 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.’€

Read More: John Farrell, Jon Lester, Red Sox,
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