Lester finds rhythm and settles in

August, 16, 2011
8/16/11
4:41
PM ET
BOSTON -- The pitch count was adding up.

By the end of the fourth inning, Boston starter Jon Lester already had thrown 79 pitches, and even though he had limited the Tampa Bay Rays to only one run on two hits, there was concern in the Red Sox dugout about how far the ace left-hander would be able to go in the opener of Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader.

“I’m thinking (are) we were going to get (Lester) through six (innings),” said Boston manager Terry Francona.

But then came the fifth inning. It was a six-pitch breeze for Lester, who wound up going seven strong innings, allowing only the one run on three hits as the Red Sox, fueled by Jacoby Ellsbury’s three-run, third-inning homer off James Shields, tumbled the Rays, 3-1, at Fenway Park.

Lester said he began to find his rhythm in the fourth, when he fanned the side, albeit on 20 more pitches. He called that inning the “turning point” for him.

“Sometimes it takes me a while (to find a rhythm),” said Lester, who improved his record to 12-6 with dominant relief from Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon (28th save).

In the fifth, even Lester was a bit surprised by the ease in which he sailed through the inning. He threw a first-pitch ball to each hitter, but Kelly Shoppach grounded weakly to short on the second pitch he saw, Elliot Johnson popped up to right field on his second pitch and Desmond Jennings also grounded out to short on his second pitch.

Just like that, after six pitches, the inning was over and Lester had “reeled it in,” as Francona said later.

“Innings like the fifth don’t come along very often. They give you a lot of confidence,” said Lester, who retired 12 in a row and 17 of the last 18 batters he faced after hitting a batter and walking the next one with one out in the second.

“They have aggressive hitters. They did a good job of laying off some pitches (over the first four innings). The fifth was a nice breather for me. You don’t get five or six-pitch innings very often. That was a nice change for me today,” said Lester.
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Jon Lester

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