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Inability to keep pitches down costs Jon Lester in Red Sox’ loss to Diamondbacks

08.03.13 at 12:27 am ET
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Jon Lester allowed six earned runs Friday. (AP)

Jon Lester allowed six earned runs Friday. (AP)

Just when it appeared Jon Lester was turning his season around, he takes a giant step back. Right from the get-go, it was clear that Lester just didn’t have it Friday night.

It took him 26 pitches to get out of the first inning, and by the time he did the Diamondbacks had a 2-0 lead thanks to a two-run bomb from Paul Goldschmidt. Lester needed just 10 pitches in the second, but he still gave up two hits in the inning. The third inning featured two more hits and another run.

Lester threw strikes all night — in fact, he didn’t walk anyone. The problem was that his strikes were up in the zone and catching a lot of the plate.

“Fastball was up. Cutter was up. Changeup was up,” Lester said. “The adjustments don’t matter if you don’t get the ball down. There were obviously a lot of fly balls here tonight that, the past three or four starts, haven’t been there.”

It looked like Lester may have been on the verge of settling down after a 1-2-3 fourth, but whatever positive momentum he built up quickly slipped away in the fifth.

He gave up a leadoff double to Aaron Hill before getting Goldschmidt to ground out. But then everything really fell apart. Martin Prado doubled to deep center, Cody Ross doubled to the left-center field gap, and Jason Kubel lined a single into right.

Just like that, Lester’s night was done. His final line: 4 1/3 innings, 11 hits, six earned runs. The 11 hits were the most he had allowed in an outing since May 20, 2011.

“It was better,” Lester said of a possible turnaround in the fourth. “My misses were down. It was better. But it just wasn’t a good night.”

Adding to Lester’s frustration was the fact that he failed to provide some rest to a bullpen that could’ve used it. Koji Uehara, Craig Breslow and Drake Britton were all still recovering from multi-inning efforts in Wednesday’s 15-inning affair, and Steven Wright was unavailable after pitching three innings Thursday night.

Instead, three more relievers were forced to throw an inning-plus Friday night, as Matt Thornton and Junichi Tazawa each went 1 2/3 innings, while Pedro Beato went 1 1/3.

“It’s just unacceptable, especially after last night,” Lester said. “I have to pick up [Ryan Dempster], pick up our bullpen. Obviously I didn’t do that. That’s my fault. I have to do a better job of finding a way. That’s what it comes down to — finding a way to go deeper in games.”

If there are any silver linings for Lester, it’s that he knows exactly what got him into trouble Friday night — too many pitches up in the zone. Now he needs to find a way to make sure his next start is closer to his previous three outings, in which he had a 2.29 ERA, than it is to Friday’s.

“It’s not like I need to reinvent any type of wheel,” Lester said. “I’m not going to start throwing with my right hand or anything. It’s pretty simple. Get the ball down. If I do that, it’s a different story tonight.”

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