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Lester Is Pitching To Join Boston's Great Hurlers

Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester is in the midst of a potentially historic season. (AP)
Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester is in the midst of a potentially historic season. (AP)

At baseball's All-Star game on Tuesday, Boston's Jon Lester pitched a perfect inning of relief against three of the National League's best hitters.

Lester earned his All-Star status this year. After starting 18 games, he's 11-3, has a 2.78 earned run average and he strikes out almost three times as many batters as he walks.

But it hasn't all been that easy.

April was dark for Lester and the Red Sox. The rainy month saw the lefty struggle and the Sox own a losing record, languishing behind the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and even the Toronto Blue Jays. On April 17, after his first four starts, Lester was 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA.

That means in his 14 starts since, Lester has gone 11-1 with an astounding 1.90 ERA.

Most Sox fans weren't quite panicking after Lester's poor start.  No one, however, could have predicted how dominant Lester's performances would become.

In his last 14 starts, Lester has gone 11-1 with a 1.90 ERA.

Red Sox legend Luis Tiant sported a 1.60 ERA in his magical 1968 season. Pedro Martinez, in his stellar 2000 season, notched a 1.74 ERA. A 27-year old Roger Clemens had a 1.93 ERA in 1994. Outside of his first four starts, that's the kind of company Lester is keeping.

Of course, those great pitchers, whose names will forever grace the baseball history books, had their own versions of poor starts or dead periods that they overcame to post those numbers, and there's no guarantee Lester will keep producing such gaudy numbers.

Lester isn't an all-time great, certainly not yet. The point is, Lester is in the midst of a fantastic, if maybe under-the-radar season. Even including his poor start, he has won the fifth-most games in baseball, has the ninth-most strikeouts and is 14th in ERA.

Lester's resurgence has coincided with the recovery of Boston's season. At one point they were 8.5 games behind their New York rivals. And though the team is currently 5.5 games back after a pre-All-Star break fade, the Sox were challenging the Yankees for the best record in the AL.

With injuries decimating Boston's starting lineup, Lester has, from the mound, carried the flag for Sox greatness. Heading into the season's second-half, questions about the Sox and their prospects remain.

And Sox fans will also wonder if Lester can continue his dominant performance. Why not? As Lester could've told you in April, when it rains it pours.

This program aired on July 16, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Jeremy Bernfeld Producer
Jeremy Bernfeld was formerly a producer for WBUR.

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