TORONTO -- For most of the first month of the season, Jon Lester could do little wrong. The lefty was 4-0 in his first five starts and the Red Sox won each of the first five games he started.
But Tuesday night was an entirely different matter.
"Really, from pitch one, I was just never able to get into a rhythm for anything - fastball command, cutter, changeup,'' said Lester after he took a no-decision in the Red Sox' 9-7 loss to Toronto. "I was never able to repeat down in the zone. It was a grind from pitch one.''
Lester pitched six innings and allowed six runs -- five of them earned. To put that in perspective, he hadn't allowed more than three runs in any of his first five starts.
He gave up a run in the first, three more in the third and two in the fifth. In the other three innings -- the second, fourth and sixth -- he faced 10 hitters and allowed just one to reach.
"You just keep going -- nothing you can do,'' he said of his plan after realizing he wasn't sharp. "Nobody's going to feel sorry for you. You just keep doing what I tried to do tonight -- just keep them as close as you can.
"It was one of those nights for me from pitch one. I wasn't able to repeat the ball down in the zone. That's big. The curveball was kind of rolling in there and I didn't really have an effective changeup. You have to not focus on not feeling good and just try to execute pitches down. I was able to do that for a couple of innings and then some other innings got me.''
Lester thought he had survived the worst of it in the third when two of the runs scored on a throwing error by Jarrod Saltalamacchia. But after a 1-2-3 fourth, he allowed a leadoff single to Rajai Davis in the fifth, and two batters later, a tape-measure homer into the upper deck by Edwin Encarnacion.
"If I threw a cutter that actually cuts, maybe it's a pop-up,''he said. "He put a good swing on it, obviously.''
"They didn't miss pitches when they got some around the plate,'' said John Farrell of Lester's night. "You tip your hat to them in that situation, but he gave us six innings, left the game with the lead.
Unfortunately, we couldn't close it out tonight.''