Have we seen the best of Jon Lester? Unfortunately, I’m starting to believe the opening day pitcher for the Boston Red Sox may never regain the touch that made him one of MLB‘s most reliable pitchers for the past several years.
Lester got off to a great start this season. He had me convinced that last year was a fluke. I truly believed that his terrible 2012 season was the result of Josh Beckett’s negative influence more than anything else. Through his first nine starts, Lester had a 6-0 record with a 2.72 ERA. He allowed more than three earned runs in only one of those games, including a one-hit complete game shutout against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Life was good for Red Sox fans. We were in good hands. Then came his May 20 start against the Chicago White Sox. In that game, his first loss of the season, Lester allowed five earned runs. It was the first of eight straight games in which Lester allowed more than three earned runs.
So what happened to the Jon Lester we saw up until May 20? The problem is his mentality. I can literally see the exact moment in Lester’s starts when he’s about to unravel. It usually happens when he doesn’t get an outside strike call that he wants. Last night Lester was relying on his curveball much more than usual. When it was breaking at the right point he looked good. But when his pitches broke too quickly and he didn’t get the call he wanted he became visibly flustered. This is when the collapse usually begins, as it did last night.
Lester is no longer able to rely on his fastball as he did a couple years ago. He has lost three miles per hour on his velocity, and as a result, has to use his breaking balls more often. The problem with those type of pitches is umpires screw them up a lot. This is to be expected though, and Lester has to learn how to come back from a call that isn’t favorable towards him. Instead Lester loses control completely. He has walked an absurd amount of batters, including seven in a June game at Tampa Bay. Great pitchers don’t have control problems like this.
The Seattle Mariners are not a good team. Lester shouldn’t unravel against them as he did in the fourth and fifth innings of last night’s 11-4 loss. The Red Sox are skidding right now, and their bullpen is in shambles. They need more from him and he has to show that he has the right mindset to be that pitcher for Boston. If not, the Red Sox’ chances of making the postseason become much smaller.