With Clay Buchholz watch entering day 51 and on the shelf until further notice, the Red Sox need for an ace is readily apparent. Sunday afternoon Jon Lester stepped up and returned the Sox to first place in the AL East.
Lester tossed seven shutout innings, gave up just four hits and struck out a season-high eight Orioles in a 5-0 win. Lester is now 10-6 on the year with a 4.27 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 139 innings.
Lester seems to have found his stuff again that was so successful in the early season in which he won his first six starts. In his last three games, against the A's, Rays and Orioles, Lester has a 2.29 ERA with 20 strikeouts and five walks in just over 19 innings.
The secret to Lester's return to form seems linked to his fastball. After the game Lester said, "I'd say as far as power I feel like I've got more right now. It's just that part of the season where I feel like you get stronger right now, especially with your heater. You always have to rely on your fastball."
Perhaps it was the extra rest at the All-Star break, perhaps Lester sees that the Sox need one of their pitchers to step up in order to compete for the pennant. Whatever it is, it could not come at a better time.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said, “A Jon Lester pitching to his capabilities is going to be one of the better pitchers in the league.”
With the Red Sox shopping for pitching at the trade deadline, the biggest addition to this team could be the return to form of the ace Jon Lester.