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Jon Lester on his start: ‘I just flat out didn’t do it’

05.23.14 at 8:26 am ET
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Jon Lester headed into Thursday’s game knowing what he needed to get done against the Blue Jays. Lester needed to do what he has done countless times throughout his nine-year career for the Red Sox: be the stopgap of a losing streak. The string of six losses heading into the start was twice as long as any losing streak during the 2013 season, and a defeat would mark just the second time in franchise history that the team had gone winless in a homestand of six or more games.

The 30-year-old needed to do one thing: get off to a good start in the early innings and carry the team into the late innings with a chance at a victory. It was something Lester has done in all of his starts in 2014.

But all it took was two pitches over the middle of the plate. A couple of screaming line drives over the Green Monster later, Lester and the Red Sox were already looking at a 2-0 deficit before even taking a step into the batter’s box. Combined with a five-run second inning, Toronto ran away and never looked back, en route to a 7-2 decision.

Lester was more frustrated with his inability to limit the damage in the second inning than he was by the back-to-back home runs in the first.

“I made two bad pitches,” Lester said. “That one to Melky [Cabrera] wasn’t terrible, but just coming back and being stubborn there after the homer and knowing they were going to be aggressive, wasn’t the smartest pitch. I can deal with solo homers. I just have to do a better job in the second inning of minimizing damage and doing a better job of getting these guys back in the dugout, especially after that first inning when we put up one. Trying to keep a little bit of momentum on our side, and I just flat out didn’t do it.”

With the way that the Blue Jays have been hitting as of late (.242/.325/.457 with 14 homers, 44 RBIs, 23 doubles and two triples in their last 10 games), catcher A.J. Pierzynski noted that there was not much margin of error for Lester.

“He just missed some spots, and they are hot right now,” Pierzynski said. “If you miss spots, these guys are going to whack it, and then what was frustrating for him was that he made some good pitches and they got hits. That’s the way it goes sometimes, and after that second inning he really settled in and got into the seventh, so that’s a good thing. He saved everybody down in the bullpen and he shut them down. He settled in and got it going.”

Manager John Farrell said that Lester’s role in setting the tone for a game is huge, regardless of whether the team is winning or losing. Lester’s first inning quickly got the momentum on the Blue Jays’ side.

“It starts with the guys that begin the game on the mound, and we’ve got to set the tone with our rotation,” Farrell said. “We’ve got to keep an opposing offense in check to give us some opportunities to capitalize on them, but that’s not happened through these last seven games, obviously.”

Although he settled down and ultimately threw 6 1/3 innings, Lester was unable to capitalize on the pitches he felt he executed well, as the Blue Jays fouled off pitch after pitch. This subsequently forced Lester to use his offspeed pitches and breaking balls at a higher than normal frequency.

“I threw a lot more offspeed pitches than I have in a long, long time today — once we got past that second inning,” Lester said. “So you put that in your bank of knowledge, and the next time you face those guys maybe we’ve got to start out a little bit slower and speed up after that, which we did after the second inning. Like I said, you live and learn, and they did a better job of executing their game plan early on, and we’ll go get them in five days.”

In the early parts of the season, Lester has thrown mostly to David Ross, with whom he has a longer track record. Farrell, however, made the decision to start Pierzynski over Ross due to the former’s history of success against Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle (.409/.417/.409 in 24 plate appearances). Farrell acknowledged the comfort level between Lester and Ross but ultimately prioritized the need to generate offense over the pitcher-catcher rapport.

“I’m not saying that [Lester and Pierzynski's] rapport is not workable, but I think that the numbers bear out that Jon has some comfort level and there is more history with he and David,” Farrell said. “I’m not going to focus on that being the difference in today’s game.”

When asked about how his rapport with Lester might have affected the lefty’s rocky first two innings, Pierzynski, who has caught the lefty on two occasions this season, was terse.

“Nope,” Pierzynski said. “Not answering that question anymore. It doesn’t matter. You guys keep bringing that up, but Jon and I, the first [start] Opening Day, we did well together, and then today was just one of those days where things didn’t work out. It had nothing to do with me catching. You guys can say that all you want, but it had nothing to do with that.”

Despite the seven-game losing streak, Lester is not worried about the mental state or morale of the Red Sox clubhouse.

“I don’t think it’s tough [to stay positive],” Lester said. “We’ve been around the block a few times and been through stuff like this. Guys are showing up every day busting their butt and trying to go execute that plan. We’re just not doing it right now. Just not getting it done.”

Read More: A.J. Pierzynski, David Ross, John Farrell, Jon Lester
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