Lester successful, thanks to his changeup

Lester successful, thanks to his changeup
July 4, 2013, 12:00 am
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BOSTON -- Before Wednesday night, Jon Lester had last been seen slowly walking off the Fenway mound with a hip injury.

At the very moment he was leaving the game, it was an unfortunate sign for the Red Sox, because Lester was on the verge of giving the Red Sox more than seven innings of work for the first time since May 10.

But as his seven innings of one-run ball against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday night showed, Lester has suffered no setback, and had his best outing arguably since that May 10 complete-game shutout.

Lester got a no-decision in the Red Sox' 2-1 walk-off win over the Padres on Wednesday night at Fenway Park, but after a first inning run, the veteran lefty was back to his dominant ways. He allowed six total hits, walked one, and struck out five.

The reason he was back to his dominant ways? His changeup.

"They challenged him good, right out of the gate," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "And he settled down to where to he used his changeup, I thought, probably as effectively tonight as he has all year. He was good in the bottom of the strike zone.

"They're an aggressive-swinging team, fastball oriented, right from the get-go," added Farrell. "And there were a lot of second-pitch changeups that he got some quick outs on. And I think after the 32-pitch first [inning], he settled in and I think threw only just over 60 pitches through the final six innings. Some late action in the zone, some depth to it, good arm speed and deception. But [the changeup] has become a much more consistent weapon for him."

Lester put runners on first and third with two outs in the first, and Kyle Blanks made him pay, shooting one up the middle to score Carlos Quentin and put San Diego up 1-0 early.

"You give up three singles, just had a long at-bat with [Chase] Headley there, and he ends up hitting a good pitch," said Lester. "And the first pitch to Blanks just stayed middle. He was able to get it back up the middle on us and score a run. But I was able to settle down after that. Anytime you're facing a team that you don't really know, there's kind of a feeling out period, at least for me. And we were able to slow them down a lot with some changeups tonight."

Lester got into some trouble in the sixth when Quentin led off the inning with a single and Headley followed it up by walking. But Lester then got Blanks to ground into a double play, and then he struck out Jesus Guzman to end the inning.

"The sixth inning was the key," said Farrell. "We get into a situation where it's first and second, he gets a key double play and then a strikeout to end it. He just continued the performance that he set last time out against Toronto. And it's good to see him, on a hot, muggy night, get through seven solid innings and keep the game in check."

Lester kept the game in check, as he and Farrell said, with his changeup, which was his most effective pitch of the night.

"It just was," said Lester. "There's no rhyme or reason. If I had good command of my curveball, it would have been my curveball. But we just really had to slow them down, and the changeup was it tonight."