Lester’s Gem Keeps Sox Alive
By Brian Phair
After 2 rough games in a row, losing in walk-off fashion against the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers in back-to-back days, the Red Sox turned to one of their stoppers on Saturday night. Jon Lester was stellar against a powerful and dangerous Texas Rangers lineup, throwing 8 shutout innings, allowing just 5 scattered hits on 106 pitches in the upper-90 degree heat in Arlington, TX. If it weren’t for the heat and his upset stomach, Lester would have likely come in for the 9th to finish the game, but it was a performance the Sox so desperately needed from the lefty. Lester has been even better than advertised in 2010 and has been one of the most reliable pitchers on the Sox staff.
In 24 starts this season, Lester is 13-7 with a 2.80 era. He has collected 165 strikeouts in 161.1 innings and has the lowest WHIP of his career at 1.13. Lester has added 2 complete games to his resume this year and likely could have had 1 or 2 more if the Sox management wasn’t so careful with the Washington native. When the Sox needed a big game pitcher this year, it was never Josh Backett or John Lackey, but Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, the young guns who are turning into super-stars before our eyes. If the Sox do make the playoffs, don’t be surprised to see these guys at the front-end of the rotation.
After the impressive pitching performance on Saturday night, the Sox turn to Dice-K Matsuzaka for a big road-trip-ending win. Since the beginning of July, Dice-K has dropped his era 0.62 points and has just a 3.29 era in 2 starts in the month of August. In his last 5 starts, Dice-K has allowed 11 earned runs, including an impressive 8 inning performance in Cleveland on August 5th, but this Texas lineup is no Indian’s lineup. Dice-K will need to have his A+ stuff in order to shut down this lineup and will need some run support in order to rest comfortably on Monday’s off-day, the 1st since the 29th of July.
Pitching is what will either make or break the Sox season down the stretch. When their starters have pitched well, the offense gets motivated and the team plays better as a whole. With roughly 45 games remaining in the season, the Sox need to play well in all facets of the game to keep pace with the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays.