After a stint on the disabled list for his strained latissimus, Jon Lester came out firing against the Royals last night. He maxed out at 95 mph with his four-seamer, and averaged 93 with it throughout the night, right around where he has been all season. That's good news for that latissimus, as it's an important part of the shoulder, and you can bet people would be a bit nervous had he come out tentatively in his first start back. For those unfamiliar with its functions, here is something athletic trainer Corey Dawkins and I wrote earlier this year:
The latissimus dorsi is a muscle that stretches from the front part of the shoulder all the way down to the hip. It is the strongest internal rotator of the shoulder, key to providing acceleration to the baseball. During the cocking phase of pitching, the latissimus dorsi stores energy as it is being stretched and releases it by contracting and accelerating to 90-plus mph. As you can imagine, it takes tremendous force and timing to propel a baseball at that speed, and this muscle is behind much of it. If the timing is off or the resultant force is too great as a result of fatigue or improper mechanics, the latissimus dorsi can be stretched too far before contracting
Latissimus strains also tend to sideline players for more than the minimum, so it's good to see Lester back just a few days after he was eligible to come off of the disabled list.
Lester had just six swinging strikes all night, but he punched out six Royals and walked just two thanks to excellent command of the strike zone: 22 of his 28 cutters were thrown for strikes, and that helped him hold the Royals to essentially strikeouts, singles, and grounders.
He scattered seven hits, so he was not quite as dominant as he had been during the start in which he suffered the injury, but it was a good sign for both Lester and the Red Sox that he was this sharp with his command and velocity. While they won Sunday's contest 12-7, the fewer games they have where the pitcher is likely to give up five or more runs, the better, and Lester's return brings them a step closer to emptying the rotation of starter performances like that one.
Of course, because baseball is a funny game that does funny things, Boston lost last night despite Lester allowing just the one run, but in the long run things will be easier if the Red Sox don't have to score in the double-digits to win, even if it's pretty clear at this point, 100 games in, that they can do that with regularity.