BOSTON - It took a few at-bats and a lot of rain to put a damper on Jon Lester's night.
Lester allowed just one run Friday night, but a 47-minute rain delay in the middle of his outing prevented him from going deeper into the game than he normally would have.
Lester went five innings, giving up the one run on four hits and three walks while striking out seven. That run was enough in a 1-0 victory for the Detroit Tigers.
Two innings of 25-plus pitches prior to the rain delay forced Sox manager John Farrell to take Lester out of the game at just 94 pitches.
"Yeah they challenged him early on with a deep pitch count [first] inning," Farrell said. "A couple walks mixed in there and he was able to get a big strikeout to [Alex] Avila to keep it to just one run. With the rain delay, we were in that situation where nearly an hour, and wasn't going to push Jon any more than the five innings tonight. But to think that one run in the first inning was going to be the difference in this one, probably didn't anticipate that, but a well-pitched game on both sides."
Lester was satisfied with the outing as a whole, and thought he got better as the game progressed - even after the rain delay.
"Felt like I threw the ball pretty well with the exception of the first," he said. "Got myself into a little bit of a jam there, but minimize the damage, get out with one.
"I actually felt better coming out of the rain delay than I did coming into the game," Lester said. "I don't know what that is. I felt like I threw the ball a lot better the last two innings than I did the previous three. I felt like I could have gone one more, but that's not my decision. I've won some battles with John [Farrell] before, but he won that one."
It didn't matter how many innings Lester threw Friday night, because the Red Sox bats couldn't get anything going. Their first hit didn't come until the fourth inning, and twice with runners on they hit into a double play. Boston's best offensive threat came in the seventh inning with Lester already out of the game, but a two-on-and-no-out situation ended with no runners crossing the plate.
Lester said he felt he was missing spots just a bit early in the game, and the Tigers' offense wouldn't bail him out by chasing anything outside the zone. He walked two batters in the first inning.
With runners on-base early on, catcher David Ross thought that may have slowed Lester's ability to zone in.
"More out of the stretch," Ross said about Lester's spotty command. "When he got to the stretch, just a little off, not quite in the groove yet. That's usually the case with a lot of the horses. They get their rhythm and they're usually a little better. I wouldn't say location, I'd just say he wasn't quite in his groove yet."
Lester fell to 4-5 on the season. He did surpass 70 strikeouts on the season, becoming the first Sox pitchers with at least 70 strikeouts within the team's first 45 games of a season since Pedro Martinez in 2002 (73 strikeouts).
Lester has also struck out at least six in all nine starts this season, tying the longest streak of his career. In the past 100 years, Martinez is the only other Red Sox pitcher with at least that many consecutive six-plus strikeout games to begin a season (29 games in 2000, 15 games in 1999, 14 games in 2001, nine games in 1998).