Improvements finally pay off for Lester

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Improvements finally pay off for Lester

CHICAGO -- Thanks to some poor run support and, at times, his own inability to preserve leads, it had been almost a month since Jon Lester picked up a win.

For the starter considered to the be the No. 1 pitcher in the Red Sox rotation, three wins in his first 13 outings wasn't good enough.

Saturday night, Lester took a step to address that, shutting out the Chicago Cubs for six innings before stumbling some in the seventh, allowing a three-run homer to Luis Valbuena.

That made things tighter for the Sox, turning a 4-0 cushion into a one-run nailbiter, but thanks to some nice work turned in by the bullpen, the Sox held off the Cubs, 4-3, giving Lester his first victory since May 18.

"I threw 102 pitches and one was a mistake,'' said Lester, a reference to Valbuena's three-run shot. "You look at the hits they had a couple of flares to right...I think they had three infield hits. I've got to take that positive from the bad contact.

"One squared-up ball give them three runs. I have to keep executing.''

Lester had a marathon 10-pitch at-bat against Welington Castillo, whom he walked immediately before giving up the three-run homer. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia thought the Sox had Castillo struck out on a 1-and-2 changeup, and judging from the pitcher's body language, so did Lester himself.

Lester credits an improved cutter in his last few outings, which has given him another out pitch, one hitters sometimes chase out of the zone. He had eight strikeouts Saturday, and his last four outings, he's fanned 29 -- and walked just four -- over 26 13 innings.

"I haven't been walking guys,'' said Lester. "I've been giving up more hits, but I think that's the nature of the beast when you're around the zone more. But I'll take the hits that I gave up tonight -- obviously, with the exception of one.''

Dombrowski on trading top prospects: 'You go for it'

Dombrowski on trading top prospects: 'You go for it'

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Red Sox are coming off a 94-win season and a division title.
     
MORE ON THE TRADE

Their starting rotation is solid, if not without some question marks. The team's core of young position players is the envy of the industry.
     
So, why, then, did Dave Dombrowski make the kind of gamble he did when he shipped arguably the best prospect in baseball and the organization's top pitching prospect to land White Sox lefthander Chris Sale?
     
"I think it's a situation where when you have a chance to win,'' explained Dombrowski, "you want to give yourself every opportunity to do so, if you can improve your club. And for us, this deal improved us.

"I'm not sure, for instance, if we didn't get (Drew) Pomeranz that we would have won our division. But any time you get there, short of just a total giveaway of your system or making moves that don't make us smart, I think you go for it.''
     
Dombrowski noted that most of his acquisitions -- Sale, Pomeranz, David Price, Craig Kimbrel -- are under the team's control for another three years.

"In baseball,'' he said, "four years down the road is an eternity in many ways. So you need to take advantage of that opportunity. Nothing's guaranteed in life; if you make these moves, it doesn't guarantee that you're going to win.
     
"But I think you just keep taking a chance. You keep going for it as much as you possibly can and hopefully, it works for you someday.''
     
The moves he's made to date, said Dombrowski, have all made the Red Sox "a little better.''
     
He further noted that with a young core of everyday players and prospects such as Rafael Devers and Sam Travis, "I think we're still strong for many, many years.''