Lester grinds through tough six-spot

May, 20, 2012
5/20/12
1:01
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PHILADELPHIA -- Only once in six innings did Jon Lester manage to keep the Philadelphia Phillies off base. He sensed from the outset it was going to be that kind of night, so to survive six innings and come away with the decision in a 7-5 Red Sox win, well, sometimes that’s enough to make a man satisfied.

[+] EnlargeJon Lester
Howard Smith/US PresswireIt wasn't pretty, but Jon Lester picked up another win over the Phillies.
It may not satisfy those who expect Lester to be able to dominate the way he did in his last start against the Mariners, when he threw a complete-game, eight-hit, no-walk victory. Or the way he had in three previous starts here against the Phillies, in which he had allowed just one earned run in 21 innings.

But it was enough for his manager, and it was enough for Lester.

“His back stiffened a little, he wasn’t finishing his pitches,’’ Valentine said, “but he gave us everything he had. He’s the leader of the pack, and that was a very good exhibition [of that].’’

Lester downplayed the back issue -- saying that while he felt it early, he doesn’t expect it to linger -- but lavished praise on his defense for helping him through a grinding night in which he gave up eight hits, including a two-run home run to Freddy Galvis and an RBI double to Shane Victorino, walked one, and hit a batter.

“I was battling myself from pitch one,’’ he said. “I couldn’t get my rhythm, couldn’t get comfortable. I don’t know if it was mechanical or just a feeling. I figured early on I was going to have to grind it out. I tried to keep the ball down the best I could, try to get as many ground balls as I could, and keep them in the park.

“I was definitely satisfied because we won. ... To be able to get through six innings and keep the team ahead, that’s big. And the bullpen did a great job of picking me up.’’

And when you win, you can also make light of your at-bats. Lester grounded into a double play, executed a sacrifice bunt, and struck out in three trips to the plate.

“Terrible,’’ he said. “How’d they look? Did they look as terrible as they felt?’’

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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