Lester looking to build on great June

BOSTON -- For the Red Sox, it was a forgettable month of June, going 12-16 and forever throttling in first gear. For Jon Lester, it was a month of vintage form.

The ace of Boston's rotation posted one of his best months in years in June, going 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA in 41 innings pitched over six starts, with 32 strikeouts, eight walks, nine earned runs and a 1.10 WHIP. The 1.98 ERA is his lowest over a full month of starts since May 2010, when he was named AL Player of the Month after going 5-0 with 45 K's and nine earned runs, posting a 1.84 ERA over that span and holding opponents to a .162 average.

Red Sox manager John Farrell, who was Lester's pitching coach during that 2010 season, took a long pause when asked Saturday morning whether this is as good as he's seen out of the lefty.

"Over the course of the whole year, I would say yes," Farrell said. "I think back to the first couple years in his career, and there was always those 3-4 starts coming out of spring training where it took him a little bit to get on a roll and then he got out of his way, and he was off and going. Last year, that was that late May, mid-late June stretch, where it was a little rocky.

"But from start to finish, this has been as consistent and ... the performance that he's giving, this is as good of a year I think he's had in his career."

Lester gets the ball in Game 1 of Saturday's day-night doubleheader against Baltimore. His last start against the Orioles, on Opening Day, was one of his stronger outings of the year, as he struck out eight in a 2-1 loss at Camden Yards.