Lester will stick to the plan in Game 5

Lester will stick to the plan in Game 5
October 16, 2013, 7:15 pm
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DETROIT – Through the first three games of the ALCS, Jon Lester is the only Red Sox pitcher saddled with a loss. Despite giving up just one run over 6 1/3 innings in Game 1, Lester got the 'L' as Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez pitched a gem in Detroit's 1-0 victory.

Lester gets a chance to avenge that loss on Thursday in Game 5. But in facing the same team over such a short span of time, who has the advantage: The pitcher or the batters?

“I don't know about advantage one way or the other,” Lester said. “I know we'll come up with our game plan, whatever that is, and try and go and execute it. And I'm sure they're going to do the same thing. So as long as you keep them in the ballpark and try to stay away from some big innings [and] give our team a chance to score some runs, [we'll] see what happens after that.”

Lester has faced the Tigers seven times in his career during the regular season, going 2-2 with a 4.63 ERA. He faced them twice this year, earning two wins. On Thursday he'll use his most recent experience as well as his career knowledge, observations over the last few games, and scouting reports to formulate his game plan for Thursday night.

“I think you have to take it collectively,” he said. “Obviously we've had some right‑handed pitchers out there, so I've got to look at that a little bit differently than I would if we had some lefties out there, if [fellow left-hander Felix Doubront] was pitching. You look at some of the things they were able to do, [John Lackey] yesterday, watch [Jake Peavy] tonight and maybe see soft in certain counts works better than hard, whatever, just try to pick up something. But at the same time, look at some pitching that's worked. These guys are smart hitters, they know how I've gotten them out in the past and they know how they've gotten hits in the past. You have to take somewhere in the middle and adjust off that.”

If the Sox win Wednesday night, Game 5 could be a possible clinching game for them. Lester is no stranger to big games. He was the winning pitcher in the 2007 World Series and has gotten the starting assignment on several Opening Days.

“He's earned them because of the way he's performed over the course of a year,” manager John Farrell said. “I can't say that the games in which he's pitched in the playoffs have been that much different than games we've seen throughout the course of the year. And we know, as we talked about with Peavy, his work between starts, that's what allows Jon to perform with the consistency and level he does.”

And this season, Lester has gotten better as the season has gone on. In 20 first-half starts, he was 8-6 with 4.58 ERA, 1.369 WHIP, and 2.29 strikeouts-to-walks ration. In 13 second-half outings he was 7-2 (2.57), 1.186 WHIP, and 3.36 strikeouts-to-walks.

“Not to make it too simple, but it's been his fastball command,” Farrell said of the difference in Lester’s first and second halves. “And as he's gained that consistency and the confidence with it, I think he's become a more relaxed pitcher on the mound, which enables him to pitch more freely from a physical standpoint. I think that's why we're seeing the velocity climb and it's made his pitches more effective.”

“I think anytime you have fastball command it sets everything up,” Lester said. “That's the name of being a pitcher. You've got to have good command of your fastball down the zone on both sides. For whatever reason, whether it was just that little extra time after the [All-Star] break, just physically felt better within each game. So, yeah, I mean, I think that hits the nail on the head with that. Fastball command has been pretty good since.”