KANSAS CITY Jon Lester's defense didn't help him much in the first inning with two dropped balls in the outfield leading to three unearned runs.
But Lester wasn't blameless in the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals Wednesday night.
Unable to put hitters away with two strikes, Lester was inefficient, with his pitch count climbing to 108 after just five innings of work.
And there's this: in six starts this year as the Red Sox' No. 1 starter, he has just one win. Dating back to last Sept. 1, Lester has just two victories in almost 2 12 months of regular season play.
Lester had two outs in the first before walking Billy Butler, then gave up a single to Jeff Francoeur before the outfield hijinx began.
"Too many pitches," said Lester. "Kind of a theme throughout the game just too many pitches. It took too many pitches to get guys out. It took too many pitches, whether they got a hit or not. Just too many pitches. And it's bad, because I felt like I had great stuff."
The inability to put hitters away with two strikes has been a season-long problem for Lester, but he said it isn't because of the failings of one particular pitch.
"I think it's more location than anything," he said. "The balls I bury in on guys or bounce, they're not swinging at. The balls I elevate, they foul off. And when I'm around the zone, they put it in play. I've got a pretty good feel for all four pitches. I threw all four pitches really well at times and other times, I was just nibbling with them, I guess."
That Lester would have trouble with the Royals was a surprise, given his history. Before Wednesday, he owned a career ERA of 1.30 against them. He hadn't given up more than one earned run to the Royals in any of his last five starts against them, dating back to 2008.