BOSTON -- Jon Lester had been, unquestionably, the Red Sox' best starter through the first 20 games of the season, making four starts and compiling a 2.17 ERA.
You wouldn't have known that, however, from watching him pitch Tuesday night. Lester was shelled for 11 hits and eight runs in just 4 2/3 innings.
He wasn't helped by some shoddy defense behind him -- five of the eight runs against him were unearned. But Lester himself wasn't sharp, either.
"They put some good swings on him,'' said John Farrell of Lester. "And then when they mishit some balls, they found some holes. We didn't help out defensively.''
It marked the third poor start in a row for Red Sox starters and fourth in the last five games, which has placed an additional burden on the Boston bullpen.
"For us to play with consistency, we need our starting rotation to lead us through that,'' said Farrell, "and right now, we're not getting that.''
In third inning, Lester was smacked around with three straight doubles, two of them hard-hit, leading to two more runs. The 11 hits allowed marked just the fourth time in his career that Lester has yielded 11 or more hits in a start.
And it only got worse.
Mistakes by his fielders cost Lester dearly. An error by the usually sure-handed Mike Napoli alone led to four unearned runs in the fifth, but Lester wouldn't point fingers.
"I know these guys are out there busting their butts,'' said Lester. "Errors are part of the game, mistakes are part of the game. Tonight, they hurt us. Other nights, we've been able to make up for them; other nights we've played exceptionally well.
"I'll never fault a guy for making an error. I know that the effort's always there. I've got to do a better job picking up them. (Napoli) catches that ball 10 out of 10 times. I've got to have a better at-bat against Jacoby (Ellsbury, who followed the error) and I didn't do it.''
"Just one of those nights,'' shrugged catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "He made good pitches and they got hits. When he fell behind, he wasn't as sharp as he's been. He made some mistakes and they didn't miss them and when he made good pitches, they still found ways to get hits.
"Those things happen and it's unfortunate they happened to Jon, because he's been throwing the ball so darned well, you just don't think that's ever going to happen when he's out there because he's so good.''