I'm getting a bit tired of Jon Lester's act. As Sox fans know, we thought the pre-2012 Lester was back earlier this season. He started the year 6-0 with a 2.72 ERA. Then it happened. The '12 Lester appeared again, falling behind hitters, yelling. glaring at umpires. The result has been a complete reversal- 6 starts, an 0-4 mark, an ERA of 7.20.
Sunday's game in Baltimore was a prime example. With Clay Buchholz probably headed for the DL, the team needed a stopper to gain a split against the tough Orioles. What we got was similar to last year- 5 innings, 9 hits, 5 earned runs, 106 pitches. He left trailing 5-0 and the Sox never recovered.
Despite individual seasons by Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett and others, the Townies have looked to Lester as their big-game guy since he became a regular in 2008. For the next four years, he was one of the league's most dependable starters. Les was twice an AL all-star and once finished high in Cy Young balloting. Unlike Buchholz, he avoided injury and averaged 32 starts per season. But since the team-wide fold of '11, he has lost something; it is hard to say exactly what.
The writers and fans seem to be losing their patience with their onetime golden boy. A Nick Cafardo piece in Monday's Globe quotes the lefty as saying "this team counts on me to throw innings, and I haven't done that...It's nobody's fault but me. I have to do a better job getting deeper into games, and do whatever you have to do...the last month has been a grind. It flat comes down to doing a better job." But quotes like this don't really say much. The fact is that with Buchholz on the shelf, they need a winner, and Lester is failing in that role.
As I have written here before, the stopper's role shouldn't fall to the 3-4-5 hurlers in the rotation. Though he is pitching well, John Lackey is coming off a season on the sidelines. Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster are improving, but neither has the consistency to be the top man. Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa are probably at least a year away. Given Buchholz' history, his postion right now is questionable, despite an excellent record.
Lester has had some great moments in his 8-year career. As a rookie, he battled lymphoma, apparently successfully. He started and won a World Series clincher. He threw a no-hitter. He has been the team's perennial Opening Day starter. But if Lester wants to be a Hall of Fame candidate rather than just another pitcher, he has to start soon. This is a real turning point in his career. We need Jon Lester to step forward very soon.