From the first pitch of Sunday's 15-7 loss, the lefty showed no signs of command on the hill. As soon as he unleashed a 94 mph sinker at 1:37 p.m., Brett Lawrie deposited the pitch over the Green Monster.
It was a precursor to a disastrous afternoon. During the first two frames of the game, Lester surrendered nine earned runs, including back-to-back home runs to J.P. Arencibia and Rajai Davis in the second inning.
"I've never seen an offense put in such positions as our offense has been put in, battling from the start of the game," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "They keep battling back, keep, you know, keep scratching away and fighting. But it's not fair."
The downhill trend wound up being Lester's worst outing of his career. The 28-year-old allowed a career-high 11 runs on nine hits — including four long balls — while issuing five walks.
The inefficiency has plagued him over his past three starts. Since July 8, Lester has been a shell of himself, yielding 21 earned runs and 25 hits while failing to advance past 4 1/3 innings in each of his outings.
"It's embarrassing," Lester said. "I've let my team down a lot this year. It's hard for me to walk around this clubhouse and look guys in the eye right now. I'm not pitching well. I'm not doing my job. Guys scored seven runs today, we should win that game."
When asked if he'd make any alterations to the rotation, Valentine said he wouldn't address the question. The skipper also reiterated his stance that Lester was feeling healthy despite his woes.
But that wasn't the reason Valentine kept Lester in the game longer. According to Valentine, Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure suggested allowing Lester to attempt to find his rhythm by pitching through his troubles.
The final decision wound up hurting Lester's confidence even more.
"It's obviously not at the highest it's ever been," Lester said. "The thing is, nobody's going to feel sorry for me. I've got to go out and pitch, and I've got to pitch better. I'm not worried about my confidence. I'm not worried about my mechanics. I'm not worried about anything except trying to execute pitches. And I'm not doing that. I've got to get back to trying to keep it simple. I can't worry about the outcome."
Since Sunday's 11 earned runs were the most allowed by a Red Sox pitcher since Doug Bird in 1983, it's safe to say Lester can't pitch any worse. Still, amid the disastrous stretch, second baseman Dustin Pedroia stood behind the southpaw.
"We're not going to win the World Series if Jonny's not himself, if I'm not myself," Pedroia said. "He's not going anywhere. He's our horse. We love him. I'll play behind him any day of the week."
Time is slowly running out for Lester.
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