CLEVELAND -- Slightly less than 10 percent of the schedule has been played, but already, Jon Lester barely resembles the pitcher who lost 14 games last year and registered a career-high ERA.
Lester pitched seven innings and allowed just two runs Thursday night in a 6-3 Red Sox over Cleveland, boosting his record to 3-0 with an ERA of 1.73 ERA.
It's Lester's best start to a season since 2008.
He allowed a run in the second and another in the fifth, but retired eight of the final nine hitters he faced.
"Consistently (getting) his fastball in the bottom of the zone," said manager John Farrell, "is where everything starts and works off of. He's doing a very good job of that."
Farrell stressed the importance of burying the fastball in the lower portion of the strike zone and Lester has made the adjustments to make it happen.
On Thursday night, he had to operate without much use of his curveball, but made do.
"I struggled with it a lttle bit," acknowledged Lester. "But for the most part, (catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia) did a great job keeping my under control and not overthrowing."
"I think his mechanics are back in order," said Saltalamacchia. "He's getting that downward angle. His cutter's better than I've seen it. His mechanics are right, so everything's slowing down for him and he's able to put movement on his all pitches."
Lester now looks like the same pitcher he was from 2008 through the end of August 2011, when he was one of the most dependable and consistent lefthanders in the game.
"I sense the confidence and the comfort," said Saltalamacchia, "knowing that if something does stray away, he's got a pretty good idea of how to get it get it back."
And it's not just Lester who has helped the Sox get off to an 11-4 start. Red Sox starters have allowed no more than three earned runs in each of the first 15 games, a trend that has allowed them to be in every game.
"Let's hope it continues," said Farrell. "We all talk how important a starting rotation is, the cornerstone of a team's success. It's no different with the early version of this team... It's been a very good run for the five guys in our rotation."
"That's kind of what you strive to do as a unit," said Lester of the consistency. "Like we've talked about, we kind of feed of each other and try to go out and continue to do what the guy before you did. Keep attacking.... all the things we've talked about since spring training."