BOSTON -- Jon Lester didn't pitch badly, not at all. He just didn't pitch as well as Anibal Sanchez, his one-time teammate at Double A Portland a baseball lifetime ago.
While Sanchez and four Detroit relievers were holding the Red Sox to a measly single and no runs in a 1-0 shutout in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, Lester was limiting the Tigers to a run in his 6 1/3 innings of work.
But that was enough to draw the tough-luck loss.
"It was a great game,'' said Lester. "That was post-season baseball tonight.''
After allowing two singles in the first, Lester settled down and pitched to the minimum number of hitters over the next three innings.
He worked out of a first-and-third, one-out jam in the fifth before yielding a run-scoring single to Jhonny Peralta in the sixth.
"I thought my command was pretty good for most of the night,'' said Lester. "I felt great. Against this lineup, if you keep our offense in the game, you have a chance.''
But in the sixth, with no margin for error given how Sanchez was pitching, the lefty buckled. He issued a one-out walk to Miguel Cabrera, then hit Prince Fielder in the arm with a two-seamer.
After a fielder's choice by Victor Martinez erased Fielder at second, Lester faced Peralta. He threw him a curve, which Peralta lifted into center, scoring Cabrera from third.
"He didn't square it up,'' said Lester. "Obviously, you're trying to bounce a pitch, but at the same time, it's not like it was scaled. He didn't hit the ball in the gap. I like my chances right there with Jake (Jacoby
Ellsbury) coming in on the ball. Just, unfortunately, it fell right in front of him.
"You can always second-guess pitches when they don't go your way and a guy gets a hit. But we hadn't thrown him any curveball and it wasn't bounced, but it wasn't a bad pitch. It kind of goes back to the theme of the night -- you tip your hat and one run beats us.''
Lester was far from pleased when, an inning later, with one out and one out in the seventh and 109 pitches thrown, John Farrell came out to lift him.
"I felt fine,'' said Lester. "When you're out there competing, I don't think you ever give in, especially this time of year. (I was) a little surprised, but at the same time, that's John decision. They had the top of the lineup coming up right there.
"He gave me a chance to get through that inning and I hit (Jose Iglesias) and that was my chance.''
Lester hadn't pitched since he looked sharp in Game 1 of the ALDS against Tampa nine days ago, but he said the layoff in between outings didn't affect him.
"I felt fine,'' he said. "I think in the post-season, with the days off, at least for me, you have so much adrenaline, you don't really worry about how your body feels or mechanics or anything like that. It's just a matter of 'Who do we have up? 'What's the game plan' and 'What are we trying to do.' You're not really concerned, this time of year, because nobody feels good.''
Lester could feel proud of his start, but far from satisfied, given the outcome.
"Sometimes, it stinks to be on that (losing) side,'' said Lester. "But you just tip your hat and show up tomorrow.''