- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester knows exactly what his career numbers are in the early months of the season, especially in March and April. The statistics aren't very good and he's not too worried about it.
The trend continued Tuesday night at Fenway Park when Lester failed to get past the fifth inning, allowing four runs on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts against the New York Yankees. The left-hander ended up with a no-decision but New York won 6-4.
Lester, who is 2-4 with a 4.94 ERA in 13 career starts (one in March and 12 in April) in the earliest part of the season, can't pinpoint why he struggles out of the gate.
"I think everybody should feel strong this time of year," he said. "If you don't, then something's wrong. I feel fine. I don't know why I got off to a slow start the last couple of years, but it's not something that's on my mind. I'm worried about what I'm trying to do pitch to pitch and now I'll worry about my next opponent. I'll go out and make some adjustments in my bullpen [session] and try to do a little bit better next time."
Tuesday marked the third time in his career Lester has started Boston's second game of the season and he hasn't made it past five innings in any of them, posting an 0-2 record with a 9.00 ERA. Lester looked strong in the first inning, retiring the side in order with two strikeouts, but New York pushed across a run in the second before he retired the side in order again in the third.
"At times I felt really good command-wise and stuff-wise, and other times it got away from me a little bit," he said. "The good part about it is it's only the first one. I feel really good with the way I threw the ball and how I battled. Now I can go forward. I would have liked to have won that game, but looking back on a personal note, I feel decent about how I threw the ball."
Red Sox manager Terry Francona and pitching coach John Farrell often talk about the effectiveness of pitchers when they're able to pound the zone and keep the ball down. The Yankees, however, are a patient team and usually don't make mistakes in the batter's box.
"They don't chase balls that a lot of other teams will," Francona said. "They work counts very well. [Lester] had a lot of deep counts tonight."
Lester didn't think the Yankees made adjustments on him after the first inning, it was just a matter of the southpaw missing his spots.
"It was more me than anything," he said. "I couldn't really figure out how to put guys away tonight. When I needed that pitch, I would either yank it, leave it up or throw it in the dirt. I wasn't able to get that knockout pitch, I guess. At the same I felt like I made some pretty good pitches.
"They have a very good lineup and when you've got them by the throat and you don't take advantage of it, it definitely comes back to get you."
After five innings and 94 pitches (53 strikes), Francona had seen enough.
"Obviously I'd like to go deeper in the ballgame, but it's the first start and I don't want to go out and run up 120, 130 pitches in the first game," Lester said. "I would have liked to have gone one more, but I pitch until the manager takes the ball out of my hand and he did at that time."
It was definitely one of those proverbial tip-your-hat games for the Yankees.
"It's a good hitting ballclub and you just have to take your licks like that sometimes," Lester said.
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.
Jon Lester's early season problems continued Tuesday against New York.