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Jon Lester was in the midst of another mediocre season with a 4.58 ERA before the All-Star break. He was pitching his way out of a start if the playoffs started back then. Then, a long break entering from the All-Star game seemed to give the left-handed starter a much-needed boost.
With a 2.38 ERA, the third lowest in the AL, in 11 starts and a 6-2 record,the 29-year old has dropped his ERA to 3.75. In these 11 starts, he has compiled 62 strikeouts and 18 walks in 75.2 innings of work. He has gone at least six inning in 10 of those 11 starts with three earned runs or less in all but one start.
Lester has really stepped up and has the experience to be the top starter when the postseason comes around in a couple weeks. In his September outings, he is 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA, including two starts against the New York Yankees and a 2-1 victory over Max Scherzer and the Detroit Tigers. He struck out a combined 20 batters while only walking three in his 23 innings of work.
The lefty struggled in 11 starts after starting the season 6-0 in nine starts with a 2.72 ERA. His ERA jumped nearly two runs over the next 11 starts as he lost velocity on his fastball and lost command of his curveball and cutter at times.
Now, Lester has regained command of all his pitchers, especially his fastball. He is using his fastball and its velocity is back up to 95-96 on the radar gun. He now uses the cutter in on righties and lefties for the strikeout and has limited his pitch count so he can go seven or eight innings on a regular basis.
This is what the Red Sox though they had in Clay Buchholz early on in the season, but Lester has stepped up to take over as the top pitcher going forward. Buchholz may be 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in his two starts since his return from the DL, but he hasn’t showed consistency with his pitch count and control in those two outings. Buchholz also is 29 and is another pitcher entering his prime who will help lead the Red Sox to a deep playoff run for years to come. He just needs to stay healthy.
A 1-2 punch of Lester-Buchholz will put up a tough fight against any other squad and is great to see in a year that the Red Sox will have the AL East wrapped up before the final week of the season. Lester just has the edge for the top spot with a more consistent approach over the last two months.