Lester's effort helps Sox win battle

Jon Lester didn't have his best stuff but did just enough to give the Sox a chance to win. Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports

BOSTON -- Jon Lester's 121st pitch Saturday afternoon was a 58-foot curveball that bounced toward the backstop and allowed a go-ahead run to score from third base. His 124th and final offering was a 94 mph fastball that struck out Mark Reynolds to end the seventh.

Therein lies a nice summation of Lester's effort against the Cleveland Indians, whom he held to four runs in seven solid, if not spectacular, innings. Lester fought through some early issues, limited the damage when he could and kept his team close enough for a late game-winning rally.

"First couple innings, for whatever reason, just kind of outthinking myself or making it too difficult," he said after an effort in which he gave up three runs in the first three innings. "Couple of times when I got away from what [catcher David Ross] was trying to do. That's all my fault. That's all on me. I'm shaking to some pitches we really shouldn't have gone to, but we were able to battle around some bad pitches and try to keep it within reach, and the guys did a good job of battling for me on the offensive end."

Taking ownership of early mistakes, and not getting down on himself, is notable. Lester has had some rocky outings in the past in which he let things get to him, and the emotion was often his undoing.

"For Jon to control his emotions -- it allowed him to settle in and use his four pitches," manager John Farrell said. "Because those first three innings his curveball and changeup were somewhat nonexistent, probably the best fastball he's had all year in terms of power. Location might not have been as consistent, but I think he really felt strong. To settle in and use his secondary pitches -- his off-speed pitches -- that's what allowed him to become more efficient and a number of 11-, 13-pitch innings that allowed him to get into that seventh."

Lester allowed a season-high 10 hits but threw more pitches than he had in nearly two seasons and struck out a season-high eight men, including all three he faced in the sixth. He did struggle again with two-out hits, and the early runs are a slightly troubling trend he has had much of the season. But when half of your arsenal is not there and the conditions are poor, sometimes it's just about surviving the battle.

"For the most part, I was pleased with how he adjusted," Ross said. "He didn't have his best stuff tonight, and he battled and then he got stronger and figured it out."