Jon Lester continues dominant stretch amid contract drama

July 06, 2014 - 3:33 am
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It'€™s hard enough to not allow an earned run in a start - let alone over eight innings of work. It'€™s even harder to accomplish such a feat two starts in a row. Since 1988, only two Red Sox pitchers have been able to post two consecutive eight-inning appearances without allowing an earned run -€“ Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez. Another Boston hurler joined that select group after Saturday afternoon'€™s 3-2 win against the Orioles, as Jon Lester - as he'€™s done for over a month now - was almost untouchable on the mound. Facing off against a potent Baltimore lineup, Lester was in complete control, allowing five hits and two runs (none earned) over eight innings while striking out seven and walking zero batters. Lester threw 118 pitches, firing 83 strikes, his highest total since May 30, 2012 against the Tigers (also 83). "I felt good,"€ Lester said after the game. "€œFastball command has been pretty good, I feel like I'€™ve gotten the consistency back with my cutter, which has been helpful at times - just getting in on rightys. All in all, I was just moving the ball around pretty well and keeping it down - keeping the ball on the ground. Base hits today, a couple of them were on the ground, a couple of them just got over the infielders'€™ heads. I'€™ll take that all day." While the Boston southpaw has been dominant for almost two months now, allowing less than two earned runs in five of his last seven starts (1.64 ERA), he'€™s been on another level over his last five appearances, surrendering just four earned runs in 37 2/3 innings (0.96 ERA). "€œThere'€™s been times throughout his career where he gets on these stretches and you kind of just give him the ball and get out of the way,"€ said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He'€™s now into a solid month and a half of elite performance against good lineups and he continues to do the same here today." Lester has put together his finest season to date in his ninth year in Boston, posting career bests in both ERA (2.73) and WHIP (1.15). Lester'€™s performance on the mound has led to speculation that he might be selected to pitch in this year'€™s All-Star Game in Minnesota. Lester, who was named an All-Star in 2010 and 2011, said that he would fully embrace the opportunity to pitch at Target Field July 15. "Obviously, when you'€™re talking about individual accolades, it'€™s always nice,"€ Lester said. "€œIt'€™s always fun to go do that stuff. I know how hard it is, as far as a pitcher, to get selected. ... If I don'€™t, I'€™ll enjoy the three, four days as best I can. If I do, obviously it would be awesome." Despite his dominance on the hill, Lester'€™s season has been overshadowed by the drama surrounding his impending free agency and the contract negotiations between himself and the club. Lester dismissed the notion that both he and the organization were still talking about a potential extension during the season. "No, I think that'€™s something we'€™ve already crossed right now after talking to ownership and sitting down with everybody involved,"€ Lester said. "Both sides right now are happy with not talking." While it seems like Lester has not changed his mentality or approach despite this new media frenzy, teammate Jonny Gomes admitted that he has been impressed with how Lester has been able to stay focused and composed this season while working through this drama. "It's a little late in my career to be in the same situation as him, contract negotiating wise, so I can't really relate, but at the same time, I really can't imagine," Gomes said. "The pressure of that along with the pressure of just trying to pitching your game and just trying to help your team. If there is a book to be written, he is definitely writing about how to deal with it." While dealing with the looming anticipation and stress of hammering out a new deal while being asked to serve as the ace of your team would seem like a distraction for many, Lester dismissed such a claim. For the lefty, successfully halting a three-game losing skid seemed to be the chief takeaway following Saturday's game. "Judging by today, I don'€™t think it was much of a distraction,"€ Lester proclaimed.

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