Jon Lester's record sits at 5-8, but let me tell you why one win this week can change his entire season.
Boston Red Sox fans are loyal. Very loyal. Yet, at the same time, mess up once (or more than once in Lester's case this season) and Sox Nation will turn against you before you can say, "Marky Mark." That being said, there is something different about Lester, something that has saved him from his seemingly inevitable pitfall.
Lester, a second-round draft pick by the Red Sox in 2002, has always been the type of pitcher who doesn't talk much and simply takes the mound and does his job. This mentality earned him the best winning percentage among active pitchers at the start of the 2012 season at .691 (76-34).
Due to his recent struggles, however, Lester has had to answer a lot of questions from the media, and while his pitching has not been great, his eloquence and word choice has been. He's made it aware he knows he isn't pitching well, especially after his most recent outing against the Toronto Blue Jays.
According to Michael Vega of The Boston Globe, Lester stated:
"It’s hard for me to walk around this clubhouse and look guys in the eye right now," Lester said. “I’m not pitching well and I’m not doing my job. We scored seven runs today. We should’ve won this game."
Additionally, Lester cleared the air when rumors began spreading about his dissatisfaction about playing in Boston when he tweeted:
Overall, Lester is handling his subpar 2012 season with much aplomb, which is saying a lot about a player on a team notorious for its 2011 downfall at the hands of the "beer and fried chicken in the clubhouse" scandal. It also merits credit when surrounded by a beer-bellied pitcher (who will remain unnamed) who decried, "I spend my off-days the way I want to spend them. My off-day is my off-day," via Boston sport's radio station WEEI.
Therefore, what we've gained from this is that Lester is not happy with his performance this season (Hooray! He cares!), and that he does not require a change of scenery (i.e. a trade) to turn his season around.
So how can one win change Lester's season? How about a dominant win against the division-leading New York Yankees on Saturday?
Sure, the Yankees stand 9.5 games in front of the Red Sox, but the rivalry is forever present. It could be quite the kick-start for Lester to gain his confidence and the confidence of Red Sox Nation back.
He is 8-4 with a 4.33 ERA in 18 career starts against the Bronx Bombers, sporting a 9.9 SO/9 stat and a healthy 1.44 WHIP. In a start against the division foes earlier this month, Lester threw 4.1 innings, allowing nine hits and four earned runs for his sixth loss of the season. So he'll certainly be looking for revenge against the potent Yankees lineup.
Jon Lester is a success story. The man (then a kid) beat lymphoma at the same time as he was establishing himself in the major leagues. He went on to win Game 4 of the 2007 World Series, clinching a championship for the Red Sox and paving the way for four straight seasons with 15-plus wins and a sub-3.50 ERA.
It is this heart and dedication that Red Sox fans like to see in the white-and-red jerseys, especially that of No. 31.
Red Sox Nation retains faith in Lester. And his partnership with the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation has produced the slogan "NVRQT," which stands for "Never Quit." If he can live by that mantra, his newly found confidence could breathe life back into a crippled Red Sox team.