With the opportunity to give the depleted bullpen a breather and facing a weak, predominately left-handed Mariners lineup, Red Sox starter Jon Lester struggled. Again.
Lester allowed five runs in five lackluster innings, walked in a run to the number nine hitter, sulked on the mound, was angry at umpires and was pulled in the sixth after allowing a pair of leadoff hits. Both men scored.
Lester's road ERA this season is now 5.73.
“The team’s been doing pretty good,” Lester told reporters after Monday's third straight loss. “I think I’ve thrown the ball better at times — better than what my line scores have been showing. There have been some bad ones mixed in there, but after the last start and this start, maybe start stringing some good ones together and get on a little bit of a roll.”
Is Lester your ace? Is Lester the guy you want on the mound in the first game of a playoff series? What about a deciding seventh game?
Aces take the ball every fifth day and dominate. Especially against lesser opponents. Aces end losing streaks. Aces control games, dictate momentum and set the tone for the entire pitching staff. Think Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander and last nights starter, for the Mariners, Felix Hernandez.
Lester started the year strong. The return of Lester's former pitching coach and new Sox manager John Farrell seemed good news for the Boston "ace". In his first nine starts Lester went 6-0 with a 2.72 ERA. Since May 20, a span of ten starts, Lester is 2-5 with a 6.49 ERA.
"He's a very good pitcher," said John Farrell. "He's evolving over time as he's dealing with the number of innings he's compiled. The velocity might not be that mid upper 90s that he was known for. But, still, he's got very good secondary stuff and he's still a very, very good pitcher."
Very, very good? What do the numbers say? Line score or no line score, numbers don't lie. Since the beginning of the 2012 season, Lester is 17-19 with a 4.74 ERA over 52 games. That's not King Felix kind of numbers. That's Mark Buehrle.
For this Red Sox team to be successful, make the playoffs or be considered serious World Series contenders, it's time for Jon Lester to pitch like the ace we are told he is.