The Red Sox fell to the Rays 8-3 in a game that assured Sox fans of one thing:
It is time to be worried about Jon Lester.
Slumps happen, and no two ever seem to be the same. It makes it that much harder to determine when a run of poor performances demand patience, and when they demand patience.
It is arbitrary to set the number at five straight bad performances for Jon Lester. Or at 30 innings. But, after what will be a full month of struggles before he pitches next, it's hard to look at Lester and think that continued patience is the answer.
After all, tonight, after four bad games, Jon Lester showed no signs of improvement, but instead went in the opposite direction. His fluky performance against Texas did not grant momentum. The arrival of June has not seen him turn the page. It has seen him fall further.
The shocking thing is that the seven earned runs offered up by Lester in just 4.2 innings of work tonight could have been so much worse. He walked four batters in the first inning. Four. Yes, one of those brought a run in. And, sure enough, he showed plenty of frustration with the umpire for calling that ball four even though it was seven inches off the plate.
The complaints, though, are just...aggravation. They are not necessarily the problem. Just a detail that makes his inability to record outs that much more insufferable. The problem is that Lester is in shambles. He can't place his cutter, and seems adverse to using anything else. When he's not missing low, he's throwing meat over the plate, and getting tagged. Somehow he managed to avoid any hits in that one-run first, but right after nearly letting Matt Joyce leave the yard in the second, Desmond Jennings took Lester deep to give him his second run of the night.
You'll notice that made for four walks and two deep fly balls through Lester's first five outs. Not to mention an infield single in the first. That's what I mean when I say it could have been worse. So very much worse.
However he "survived" those first two innings, more stung hits and free bases led to two runs in the third, another homer in the fourth, and two more long balls in the fifth. And that was the game. Yes, the Boston offense left a lot of baserunners stranded after scoring three runs in the first three innings. But the problem tonight was on the mound, wearing #31.
It's time to act on Lester. Whether that means skipping a start, putting him on the disabled list, or sending him into the Ozarks with David Ross, two cases of beer, and a puppy for a crash course in emotional control, I don't know. But the patient approach led us to this.
The only good news to be had: Jose De La Torre did his job, pitching three innings and making sure no other pen arms had to see action. For that much, at least, we can be thankful.
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