Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester began his 2013 season campaign in fine fashion, owning a 2.72 ERA after nine starts. His performance up to that point seemed to end any debate that is atrocious 2012 season, during which he posted a 4.82 ERA, was a sign of a decline in his pitching skills.
Now one cannot be too sure he has put last season’s pitching demons behind him. Since his ninth start, Lester has allowed at least three earned runs each time he stepped on the mound with his latest run-preventing struggles coming on Tuesday night. On Tuesday, facing the Tampa Bay Rays, Lester allowed seven earned runs to cross the plate in just 4.7 innings.
Lester did not have a full-blown collapse in any one inning that the Rays took advantage over; instead, he allowed his deficiencies to extend throughout his entire start, giving the Rays multiple opportunities to mount run-scoring opportunities.
With such underwhelming pitching, one cannot find a pitching statistic Lester performed well in. He gave up too many hits (.357 batting average on balls in play), walked far too many batters (25.9 BB%), and gave up an absurd number of home runs considering how many fly balls the Rays hit against him (50.0 HR/FB%).
Having displayed such an inability to complete the most rudimentary tasks of his profession it is little wonder that Lester gave up so many runs in the contest. His performance might also have been an indication the Red Sox might not be able to depend upon him to be the pitcher he was for the first few seasons of his career.
Even if Lester rebounds from his last five starts, most of them poor, it will not change the fact that it was his pitching that helped the Red Sox lose the game. He posted a win probability added of -0.578, with almost all of his pitches contributing to defeat.
Lester also ruined the early lead the Red Sox hitters had amassed before offensive anemia set in. After scoring three runs in three innings and building a 3-2 lead and a win expectancy of 58.9 percent, the Red Sox offense was undermined by Lester immediately coughing up two runs in the bottom of the third inning.
The Red Sox were never in the game the rest of the way as both the pitching and the hitting only got worse for the club.
Although the Red Sox cannot be happy about their performance on Tuesday, they can feel a little relieved that the defeat did not cost them their two-game lead in the division standings. It should, however, have cost the club a little trust in the pitching of Jon Lester.