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News » Boston Red Sox Inside Pitch 2009-05-18

Boston Red Sox Inside Pitch 2009-05-18

Boston Red Sox Inside Pitch 2009-05-18
The Red Sox should have predicted -- and most likely did given their effort to collect as many arms as possible for their starting rotation over this past winter -- exactly what's happening to an exasperated Jon Lester this season.

The 25-year-old left-hander had a breakout year in 2008 while bounding out as the rotational ace while Josh Beckett battled injuries that reduced his velocity and caused him to struggle in the postseason.

Lester is seemingly paying the price for last year's success, right along with the 210 1/3 innings pitched during the regular season -- along with another 26 1/3 high-stress innings as Boston's only stopper during the playoffs.

The 237 total innings in 2008 were the most a Sox starter amassed since Curt Schilling worked his mound workhorse magic for the 2004 club. Prior to last season, Lester hadn't pitched as many as 155 innings as a pro.

The only real rest last season for the lefty was nearly 10 days of R&R built up around the All-Star break that allowed the youngster to reload and keep pounding the zone down the stretch.

This season's numbers scream out a 2008 hangover for Lester: 6.51 ERA in eight starts, 60 hits allowed in 47 innings pitched, 10 home runs allowed and a .311 batting average against. Lester's statistics smack of a pitcher that's experiencing serious difficulty maintaining the pitch-to-pitch consistency he had for nearly the entire wire-to-wire run in 2008.

Dig deeper and the picture becomes even clearer that Lester is experiencing fatigue-related issues.

Once Lester has crossed past the 76-pitch threshold in each of his eight starts, his numbers are precipitously worse. The southpaw has a 7.31 ERA and has allowed 27 hits and seven home runs in only 16 innings pitched after the 75th pitch of an outing this season.

Lester hasn't found his "A" game easily, either. During his first 15 pitches of games this season, Lester has been banged around to the tune of a 15.88 ERA in 5 1/3 innings with seven hits and 10 runs allowed.

From there Lester loosens up and has a 3.85 ERA on pitches 16-75 and looks much more like the bright young left-handed starter that seemingly cranked out quality starts last summer with an almost effortless-looking style.

Lester is tiring in the late innings, whereas last season he had more left in the tank, and seemed to get stronger and nastier as the game progressed. The reverse is true this year. The young lefty has already revealed some pent-up frustration about his situation this season, and it's really bubbled over in his last two starts after flashing moments of brilliance in each of those outings.

Lester seemed to be on the verge of a breakout performance that would set him on the right path again, but perhaps it's time to acknowledge the effect of last season's workload on the sturdy lefty.

MARINERS 3, RED SOX 2: The second of SS Nick Green's two errors at shortstop on the day ended up hurting the Sox as it permitted the Seattle offense to scratch for a single run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. RHP Justin Masterson allowed only two runs on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings, and RHP Ramon Ramirez picked up the tough luck relief loss in the bottom of the ninth.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 18, 2009

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