ARLINGTON, Texas - Jon Lester wasn't nearly as good as he was in his last start. In fact, according to Lester himself, he wasn't very good even when he was retiring the first nine hitters in a row.
But he was, apparently, plenty good enough.
Lester pitched seven innings and allowed just three runs on four hits as the Red Sox trounced the Texas Rangers, 8-3.
"I battled,'' said Lester. "Anytime you come in here and get seven innings against this team, it's good. After last night, I was trying to give the bullpen a little bit of a break and for the most part, I was able to do that.''
Lester had been dominant in his previous outing, striking out 15 and allowing just one hit in eight innings and, on paper, it looked like he was about to pick up right where he left off, as he retired the Rangers in order in each of the first three innings.
But looks can be deceiving.
When told that he appeared to be in a good rhythm early, Lester chuckled and said: "I'm glad it looked that way. I actually thought that I threw the ball worse in the first four than I did in the last three. (I didn't like my) tempo. I got away with a lot of pitches, but we were able to keep them off balance just enough to get some foul balls and some bad contact.
"Obviously, in the fourth and fifth, they started squaring some balls up. After that, I kind of settled in a little bit and had better tempo, better direction, better plane to the ball. But it was a grind tonight.''
"It wasn't a typical Jon Lester start,'' added catcher David Ross, "but yet he comes away with a 'W' and a quality start. He wasn't throwing the ball great for him. I don't want to sound negative, but I think he holds himself to a high standard and so do I. He knew he was battling. He said he didn't feel like he had his legs under him to start off. But he battled and made some pitches when he needed to.''
And in the end, that was most important. Lester figured it out and hung in there until there were six outs for the bullpen to pick up.
"He might not have been as powerful, pitching on his seventh day,'' said John Farrell. "But still, with this lineup and this ballpark, as quick as things can turn around, once again he and David Ross did a great job of combining with the great plan.''
"It was important (to get off to a good start after Friday's loss),'' said Lester. "We always talk about picking guys up. Obvious, (Clay Buchholz) isn't trying to (get knocked out in the fourth); he's trying to go deep into the game. So it's the next guy's job to pick him up and make sure we don't tax our bullpen so much.''