Jon Lester helped the Red Sox defeat the Rays on Wednesday night with a seven-inning, two-run outing, but he also made a little bit of personal history along the way. Lester's five strikeouts -- or, more specifically, his fourth punch out of the evening -- propelled him past former teammate Josh Beckett for fifth place on the Red Sox all-time strikeout leaderboard.
Lester's 1,110 strikeouts have all come with the Red Sox, as this is the organization that drafted him, developed him, and gave the lefty his first (and only) job in the majors. He began the year with 1,060 whiffs, trailing Luis Tiant by 15 for sixth place, but reached that threshold in his third start of the season, also against Tampa Bay. The next target is not nearly as close, though:
It will take Lester most of the rest of his current contract to surpass Cy Young, and that's if he's healthy and can keep his strikeout rate from falling any further -- after a three-year stretch with 9.4 strikeouts per nine, Lester is at a more average 7.3 per nine over the last two seasons. Boston has an option on him for 2014 that they are sure to invoke, given his resurgence and the low price tag of that extra year, and Lester will need it to move into fourth.
Going forward, well, he'll have to re-sign with the Red Sox to reach Pedro, never mind Wakefield and Clemens, who are safely over the 2,000 punch out mark. That's likely a discussion to be had this off-season, after the Sox see a full campaign from Lester as well as the development of their pitching prospects who would have to replace him should he leave.
Even if this is as far as he gets on the all-time Sox leaderboard, he's already tops among strikeouts for left-handed starters. Lester passed Bruce Hurst in September of 2012, against the Yankees in another five-strikeout effort. The next closest active Red Sox on that list is Felix Doubront, who is 879 strikeouts behind Lester and in danger of losing his rotation spot this summer. Chances are good that record is safe for a while.
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