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If Jon Lester Continues to Be Dominant, the Boston Red Sox Will Be Playing in October

Yet, a Return to Mediocrity Will Spell Doom for the Red Sox's Playoff Hopes

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | One of the more recent and promising developments for the Boston Red Sox is the seeming return of Jon Lester to his form of April and May of this year. Maintaining this level of performance is the lynchpin to the Red Sox's playoff chances.

Between April 1 and June 6, Jon Lester made 13 starts. He averaged nearly 6.2 IP/2.62 ER /109.5 pitches per outing. As the ace of the Red Sox's starting rotation, Jon Lester was performing admirably.

Then troubles crept in. From June 11 to July 8, a span of 6 starts made, he averaged just over 5.2 IP/4.5 ER/102.3 pitches per outing. Only on July 3 against the San Diego Padres (7 IP/1 ER/102 pitches) did Lester offer any glimpse of his earlier dominance. He was uncomfortably reverting back to his 2012 season. Not only did he seem to be physically exhausted, but also mental fatigue seemed to be present. He was increasingly and outwardly affected by non-strike calls from various umpires of what he considered strikes throughout this stretch, an ugly repeat of his exploits in 2012.

However, since July 8, the Jon Lester that the Red Sox so need has re-emerged … and against teams that are clear competitors for Boston's playoff hopes (Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles). He has averaged 6.2 IP/1.67 ER/98.3 pitches per outing against teams that are ranked 7th, 5th and 3rd in batting in the AL. These are quality outings against quality teams.

The best move the Red Sox might have made thus far before the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31 is, perhaps, a non-move. Not pursuing Matt Garza, who clearly was outperforming Jon Lester, may have sent a message of confidence that the Red Sox organization has in Lester. Many Red Sox fans bemoaned the news that Garza was dealt to the Texas Rangers. Why on earth would the Red Sox not make the trade for a pitcher that gave the team a better chance to win?

Well, the Red Sox organization knows a great deal more than any fan about their own players and what it might take to get the most out of these players. It seems, at least through the last three weeks, that the right combination of rest, confidence and coaching has returned a pitcher to the starting rotation that is so desperately needed. Without this Jon Lester, passing on Matt Garza would have proved to be a major mistake.

Going forward, the Boston Red Sox absolutely need Jon Lester to be dominant. With a projected return of Clay Buchholz in late-August or early-September, the team desperately needs a starter who can go deep into ballgames and give the Red Sox a very good chance to win. Without this Jon Lester, the pitcher able to dominate against rivals (New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays) that make up 23 of the 56 remaining games, the team might very well be out of the playoff picture before Clay Buchholz's return.

Patrick Bernier is a freelance writer who has been following the Boston Red Sox for 25 years.

You can follow Patrick on Twitter @PatrickBern7.

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