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BOSTON (CBS) – With the Red Sox arriving in San Francisco just a few hours prior to their game against the Giants on Monday, they needed strong outing from starter Jon Lester.
Lester, who flew in on Sunday, delivered.
“Jon was exactly what we needed,” manager John Farrell said of the lefty’s 8.1 shutout innings in Monday night’s 7-0 win over the Giants. “We needed a strong pitching performance. On a night when we could use a guy to get deep in the game, he gave us just that. He wanted every potential to finish out that game but we had agreed that he wasn’t going to go out and grind through the ninth inning just to throw a complete game. Outstanding effort on his part.”
“That’s huge. We’re not going to go to the World Series without him,” said Lester’s battery-mate, Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “We need all these guys, and Lester knows that. We all know that. He just needs to go out there and focus on what he needs to do and he’ll be just fine.”
Winless in his last three outings, Lester improved to 11-7 after allowing just six hits and striking out three. He faced three batters in four of his innings, and just four batters in two others. He got Brandon Belt to fly out for the first out of the ninth, but after back-to-back singles left for reliever Brandon Workman — two outs shy of his second complete game shutout of the season.
Lester wanted to go the distance for his team, and is disappointed he couldn’t deliver on that front. But he’s happy to put another W in the win column.
“I want to try to finish every game I can. Obviously these guys had a long day. We were fortunate enough to come in (Sunday),” said Lester. “I felt like I needed to (finish the game), unfortunately I wasn’t able… The biggest thing is we won the game, move on to tomorrow.”
Lester benefited from his offense putting up three runs in the second, giving him an early lead to work with. So the lefty, who has been criticized for nibbling around the strike zone, was able to attack the zone and be aggressive with his pitches.
“When we score runs early you can get comfortable and feel good with your mix. You don’t work as hard, you’re not grinding through innings,” said Lester. “We had some balls that were squared up but right at guys, a couple double plays. That kept the pitch count down for me.”
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It’s been a bumpy road for Lester after starting the season 6-0, but he’s turned in three straight solid outings. He’s pitched into the seventh inning of seven of his last nine starts, going 3-2 with an ERA of 3.15 in that stretch. Take out rough outing against the Diamondbacks to begin August, in which he allowed six runs in 4.1 innings, and those numbers are even better.
But Lester looks back at that outing against Arizona as a valuable learning experience, and will focus on what has worked over the last two months.
“Arizona was just bad everything; it was not a good game. I feel like after the (All-Star) break I’ve thrown the ball really well. I just keep trying to build off each positive start. I’ll build off today and am looking forward to Sunday,” he said.