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In case you missed it, Jon Lester threw an absolute gem for the Red Sox on Saturday. Lester earned his 3rd win of the season (3-4), tallying 15 strikeouts while only allowing 1 hit and 2 walks over 8 innings against the Oakland Athletics. There hasn’t been a Red Sox pitcher to toss 15 Ks since Pedro Martinez in 2001. That’s some impressive company, if you ask me.
Although the Sox made it interesting in the bottom of the 9th by allowing the Athletics to score 3 runs, Koji Uehara came in and closed the door to earn his 7th save of the season in a 6-3 Red Sox win.
This start by Lester is what the Red Sox have needed all year and it shows how much they needed it when they almost let it slip away in the bottom of the 9th. Lester is the ace of the Red Sox staff and pitched like an ace Saturday afternoon. He was dominant the entire game and was helped when the Red Sox got off to an early lead by means of a Johnny Gomes grand slam. Not only did it take a lot of pressure off the offense, which has been up and down this entire season, but it took the pressure off Lester and allowed him to pound the strike zone and go after the A’s hitters.
Lester has been solid all season but had the second lowest run support in the American League until today, which explains his losing record. If he keeps up his impressive start, however, it should be hard for his record to not improve. Lester improved his season stats to a 2.59 ERA, with a 1.09 WHIP and 10.8 K/9 with this win over the Athletics. His 3-4 record is not an accurate portrayal of how well he has pitched this season. Between both his poor run support and 7 unearned runs allowed this season due to sloppy defense behind him, it is easy to make the case that he could be somewhere closer to 5-2.
This is the final year of Lester’s contract with Boston before he enters free agency and both sides have been working on coming to a deal since spring training. Lester has said that he would take a hometown discount, much like Dustin Pedroia did, to finish his career in Boston, but it isn’t that easy. Lester has been proving this season that he is the best pitcher on the Red Sox staff and deserves a healthy contract. At only 30 years old Lester has plenty of quality years in front of him and could see something along the lines of a 7-year deal with an average annual salary of $20 million on the open market. As long as the Sox don’t try to undercut him with the hometown discount too much, he should be able to get a good contract and stay in Boston for a long time.
There isn’t much to the Red Sox pitching staff behind Lester, which works in Lester’s favor. John Lackey is still under contract for one more year and for only $500,000, but he is 35 and it’s unpredictable whether or not he will be able to keep up the remarkable pace he’s been on this season and last. Jake Peavy is a free agent after this year, and Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront have resembled roller coasters in recent seasons. It is important that the Sox sign the pitcher who has been nothing but consistent and has shown that he wants and deserves to stay in Boston.