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Jon Lester is starting to look like Jon Lester again

08.20.13 at 3:54 am ET
By
Jon Lester (AP)

Jon Lester pitched into the ninth inning Monday. (AP)

SAN FRANCISCO – Jon Lester might have found something more than just another solid, post-All-Star break start Monday night. He just might have uncovered an old friend – his devastating cutter.

Following the Red Sox’ 7-0 win over the Giants, a few over in the visitors clubhouse commented on the fact that what Lester delivered in his 8 1/3-innings of shutout ball might have been his best cutter since the pitcher’s momentous April run of success.

The go-to pitch that had seemingly gone on somewhat of a hiatus, had returned in the lefty’s 115-pitch outing..

“Jon was exactly what we needed,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “We needed a strong pitching performance on a night when we could use a guy to go deep in the game and he gave us just that. He wanted every intention to finish out that game, but we had agreed he wasn’t going to go out and grind the ninth inning just to get a complete game. An outstanding effort on his part. A lot of strikes. I thought his fastball was sharp. It was powerful, and he missed in some breaking balls. Particularly his cutter was powerful tonight.”

It was that last sentence that jumped out more than any of the other analysis from Farrell.

Lester’s success since coming back from the All-Star break has been striking, with the starter totaling a 2.52 ERA his last six starts. It has been a run where he has allowed more than two earned runs just one time, striking out 32 and walking just eight in 39 1/3 innings.

But there was a difference Monday compared to those previous outings. Upon first returning from the All-Star break, Lester had shied away from the cutter, throwing it a combined seven times in his first two starts after the hiatus. And with two strikes, it was no longer the out-pitch Lester had fashioned for much of his career, with the lefty instead going to changeups and well-located fastballs in key counts.

This time (according to BrooksBaseball.net) Lester threw 18 cutters. And with the power of his fastball also returning (maxing out at 95 mph while averaging 93 mph), it offered the kind of impression many had come to expect from Lester.

He has now thrown 10 or more pitches of at least 95 mph in three straight games for the first time this season.

“I think any time you go through some struggles, having a break helps, getting away, whether it’s one off-day, or whether it’s the All-Star break,” Lester said. “I think that really helped just kind of getting me back to neutral as far as just pounding my head against the wall, just pitch selection or mechanics or whatever it may be at that particular time. I feel like that was a good mental break for me. I felt fresh when I came back.”

“Looks like he’s got his legs back underneath him, and I mean that by we gave him a few days down to renew physically,” said Farrell, who allowed Lester extra rest coming out of the All-Star break. “And when he gets fatigued you see the swing get a little long but that’s not been the case over the last five to seven games he’s been there.”

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