It all came down to this for Jon Lester in Tuesday night’s 6-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.
“A couple of [bad] pitches in 111,’’ said the big lefthander, who actually threw 116 pitches, 66 for strikes.
Just as in a setback to the Twins last Thursday, one could make a case that Lester deserved to win. He gave up four runs on six hits and two walks over 6⅔ innings as he dueled Texas starter Ryan Dempster.
But a few bad pitches in the sixth and seventh proved costly when Lester gave up a pair of runs in each frame to absorb his 10th loss of the season, a career high.
“My past three starts, I feel like I’ve thrown the ball better than I have all year. I’m 0-2,” said Lester (5-10), who got eight ground-ball outs while facing the minimum through the first four innings, after which he and Dempster shared an identical pitch count (38).
“I can’t keep talking about being frustrated. It’s like beating a dead horse,” Lester said. “Everybody obviously knows here that we’re frustrated and that we don’t like losing and we can keep beating a dead horse, but, for me, there are positives in this game that I can take and go forward to the next one.’’
“It’s almost [like] Groundhog Day,’’ said manager Bobby Valentine. “It’s another heck of a performance. We didn’t score the runs and he didn’t get the breaks. Couple of curveballs to a couple of lefthanders wound up hurting him.’’
One of those was the 3-and-2 curve he hung in front of David Murphy, who drove it for a leadoff double to right in the sixth. That after the Rangers left fielder got behind in the count 0-and-2 but was given a reprieve when plate umpire Lance Barrett called a 2-and-2 four-seam fastball that Lester painted on the corner a ball.
“It was a missed call,’’ Lester said. “You try to execute your next pitch and the curveball just rolled in there instead of where I wanted it to be. So Murph did a good job of staying in and doing his job.
“I just have to execute a better pitch.’’
After striking out first baseman Michael Olt, the former UConn standout who was making his Fenway debut with the Rangers, Lester gave up a single to Ian Kinsler that made it 1-0. Elvis Andrus grounded to third, sending Kinsler to second, and Josh Hamilton singled to right to score Kinsler for a 2-0 lead. That after another close call on a 2-and-2 pitch didn’t go Lester’s way.
When he got Adrian Beltre to fly to right to end the inning, Lester smoldered as he walked off the mound, directing a hard glare at Barrett as he made his way to the Sox dugout.
Lester’s struggles continued in the seventh when he gave up a pair of runs enabling Texas to stretch its lead to 4-0.
“His stuff was great all night, his cutter was back to where I remember it being,’’ said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “I haven’t caught him his last two outings, but getting back with him tonight, we both had a game plan and we stayed on it, but I don’t think any one of those guys had a comfortable at-bat with the way he was throwing.
“His velocity was there, his changeup was there, and his curveball had some really good sharp bite. I was really happy and proud of him. I thought he went out there and pitched a really great game.’’
When he departed in the seventh, the Fenway Park crowd of 38,416, the largest of the season, applauded Lester for his efforts. The only drawback was that he didn’t get the result he was looking for.
“I feel great, physically,” he said. “I feel like we made the right adjustments. The ball was down in the zone. I’m not giving up a bunch of hard-hit balls. I had one cutter that backed up on me on Kinsler. Like I said, three or four pitches out of , I’ll take my chances with that.’’