Jon Lester shook his head and laughed when asked to describe the last few seasons he has experienced with the Red Sox.
No wonder. In 2011, the Red Sox had what looked to be the best team in the game until a shocking collapse in September. The chaotic 2012 team, although above .500 late in July, also fell apart down the stretch.
The Sox then won the World Series in 2013, playing at a high level all season. Then came another valley. The Sox sit at 43-52 with 67 games remaining, a team beset by injuries and inconsistency.
There seems to be no middle ground with the Sox.
“I don’t really know how to describe 2012. Pretty much a disaster from Day 1 for a lot of people on personal levels and obviously on the Red Sox side of it,” Lester said before he pitched an inning for the American League in the All-Star Game on Tuesday.
“I think ’11 was just a weird year. You look at us and the Braves [who also collapsed]. People forget about what the Braves did that year because obviously we’re in Boston. To have two teams do that, how often do you see that? It was just a weird year.”
Lester thinks the Red Sox are not as bad as they have showed this season. He blames the 20 one-run losses for the team being 9½ games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East standings.
“Those are the games that have been the most heartbreaking for us in terms of losing. We’re in it one way or the other. Our pitching did its job or our bullpen did its job, our offense is keeping us in the game and for whatever reason that one run is on their side. That stat stands out more than anything to me. That’s been our Achilles’ heel this year,” Lester said.
Lester pointed out that the Red Sox lost center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to free agency and did not re-sign shortstop Stephen Drew until May.
“Those are three key positions that you have to replace and we replaced two of them with rookies. Going in, you automatically know you’re going to have to deal with some sort of learning curve, some sort of struggle,” he said.
“That right there is a big hurdle to overcome. That makes it tough. But, still, we’ve been in games. We’ve had our chances. But we haven’t produced when we need those big wins. That’s been the biggest thing. I figured we’d be better but that’s all on us.”
Lester pitched the second inning Tuesday night and allowed two runs on three hits against the National League. But the AL won the game, 5-3. Teammate Koji Uehara picked up an out in the sixth inning.
Red Sox manager John Farrell was pleased with how it worked out for his players.
“Koji does what he has done so much, and that’s come in and get a key strikeout,” Farrell said. “Jon got his inning of work in, much like we had lined out for every starting pitcher to do just that. So they were able to say that they walked away from this game tonight knowing they were in it and contributed to the win.”
Lester flew back to Boston with Uehara, Farrell, and the Red Sox coaches after the game and arrived in Boston early Wednesday morning.
The Sox have a voluntary workout on Thursday afternoon at Fenway Park. Lester will host his third annual NVRQT Night for children’s cancer research Thursday night. He is scheduled to start Sunday against the Kansas City Royals.
“Get back to it,” Lester said.
Third baseman Will Middlebrooks has what the Red Sox are describing as a mild strain of his left wrist. He was injured diving back to first base while playing for Triple A Pawtucket on Friday.
Middlebrooks has not played in the majors since May 16 because of a fractured right index finger. He has played in 14 minor league games since, going 13 of 46 (.283).
His original rehabilitation stint, which started on June 14, lasted six games before being stopped because of swelling in his finger. Now this latest assignment also has been halted.
Right fielder Shane Victorino, who hasn’t played for the Red Sox since May 23 because of a right hamstring strain and strained lower back, is tentatively scheduled to play for Pawtucket on Thursday at McCoy Stadium against Buffalo.
Victorino has played in seven minor league games since June 14, going hitless in 17 at-bats with two walks. Farrell suggested on Sunday that Victorino could be activated this weekend.
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who was designated for assignment by the Sox on July 9, passed through waivers and was released. Pierzynski joins outfielder Grady Sizemore and lefthander Chris Capuano as veterans who began the year on the Opening Day roster but were gone by midseason. Pierzynski, 37, posted a .633 OPS in 72 games. He signed a one-year, $8.25 million contract in December . . . The Sox acquired lefthander Ryan Verdugo from the Royals for cash. Verdugo, 27, was 5-2 with a 4.24 ERA with Triple A Omaha this season . . . The Red Sox have 50-1 odds to win the World Series according to Bovada, an on-line gambling site. The Sox were 16-1 on June 2. The Sox and Tampa Bay Rays have the worst odds to win the AL East at 14-1.