Coming into his start on May 20 against the Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox ace Jon Lester looked like he had completely rebounded from his poor 2012 MLB season. At that time, he had a cool 2.72 ERA, a solid 1.01 WHIP and a 6-0 record. He definitely looked like the reliable starter that the Red Sox needed him to be in this 2013 season.
Fast forward to Tuesday night as the Red Sox faced off with the Tampa Bay Rays when Lester looked far from an ace. He lasted just 4.2 innings while allowing seven runs on eight hits and seven walks. He also allowed three home runs in the game as well. By the end of the game, a loss for Lester, his ERA sat at 4.12 and his WHIP at 1.29.
Including Tuesday night’s 8-3 loss, Lester has looked shaky over his last five starts, beginning with that May 20 outing against Chicago. He’s allowed three or more runs in all of those starts and has allowed four or more runs in four out of the five starts. The fewest number of base runners he’s allowed in any of those starts is 10, as well. Not surprisingly, these five starts have resulted in three losses and two no-decisions for Lester.
The biggest issue for Lester over this span, particularly over his last three starts, has been his control. Including the seven walks he gave up on Tuesday, Lester has walked 14 batters over his last three starts. Over those three starts, just 58.6 percent of his pitches have been thrown for strikes and his walk-rate has risen to 3.31 walks-per-nine-innings. He hasn’t had command of any of his pitches and it’s shown.
There’s no doubt that Lester has the stuff to succeed as an ace for Boston, but he hasn’t been showing it lately. He’s pitching with a lack of confidence in his arm and it’s causing him to miss spots and not take command of the strike zone. As the Red Sox look to try and stay atop their division, they have to find a way to get Lester comfortable and back to pitching like he’s capable if they want to continue winning.