July rout by Jays may have helped Lester

TORONTO -- The low point of a difficult season for Sunday starter Jon Lester was undoubtedly the July 22 home start against Toronto in which he allowed a career-worst 11 runs.

But manager Bobby Valentine believes that forgettable outing may have been the turning point for the Red Sox lefty.

“That probably changed his year,” Valentine said. “He’s pitched a lot better since then. He’s started throwing his curveball harder, hasn’t worried about runners as much and he’s thrown more changeups.

Better luck has also played a role, said the skipper.

“Balls have found the gloves a few more times too.”

Jays shuffle lineup: Lester toed the rubber against a depleted Blue Jays lineup on Sunday. Slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who hit his 40th home run last week, was scratched with a sore toe, while shortstop Yunel Escobar and catcher Jeff Mathis both were ruled out by illnesses.

The only players from Toronto’s Opening Day lineup were the first four hitters: Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, J.P. Arencibia and Adam Lind.