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Jon Lester Silences Critics With Outstanding Start

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COMMENTARY | The Boston Red Sox shut out the San Francisco Giants 7-0 on Monday night. It was a significant win for the Red Sox, considering they had come in losing seven out of their last 10 games. The win also kept them in first place by one game over the Tampa Bay Rays.

It was an important win for confidence, too. This is a team that has consistently shown it can handle any adversity thrown at it. And there's no doubt there's been plenty of it in August. So, it should come as no surprise that the Sox start a West Coast trip with a win in the middle of a tight pennant race, even when not playing their best baseball.

Jon Lester's fantastic start is the most important storyline from last night. The lefty went 8.1 scoreless innings, allowing just six hits while striking out three. Lester lowered his ERA to 4.09 on the season, continuing to pitch well in August. This is extremely significant, considering Boston has struggled from the mound this month.

The Red Sox have an August ERA of 4.41. The previous high was in June when Boston pitched to a 4.13 ERA. Ryan Dempster has a 7.40 ERA in August, while newcomer Jake Peavy comes in with a 5.00. And, of course, Clay Buchholz can't even make it back on the field. So, it was certainly that much more significant for the Sox to have a start like Lester had last night.

It's been a frustrating season for Lester. The former Cy Young candidate started well but quickly came off the rails in June, pitching to a 7.62 ERA in the month. He started to get it back in July, but a rough start to begin August seemingly set him back. However, Lester's last three starts have shown what he is capable of, including last night's near complete-game shutout.

The Red Sox have numerous questions regarding a potential playoff rotation. The injury to Buchholz leaves them with no true No. 1. Assuming Buchholz is healthy, it would seem that he would join Lester and Lackey as the primary rotation. However, this is also assuming that Lester does keep up this pace, and Lackey continues to pitch respectably. If any of this doesn't hold up, then Peavy or Felix Doubront would be next up.

While Doubront has done well as of late, he still lacks playoff experience. Doubront is also on pace to throw close to 170 innings, the most in his career. It's difficult to know what kind of condition he may be in moving forward. As for Peavy, he simply needs to pitch better. A 5.00-plus ERA won't get the job done in the postseason. Meanwhile, Dempster is realistically not an option at this time. With the way he has thrown this year, there's a chance the younger guys like Brandon Workman and Drake Britton would have a better chance getting a postseason start than Dempster.

Of course, this is all assuming the Red Sox reach the playoffs, which would be the first time since 2010. There's still plenty of baseball to be played before October. However, if the Sox get more starts like Lester's last night, they shouldn't have anything to worry about -- well, at least until the playoffs.

Chris Sedenka is a Yahoo! Contributor in Sports covering the Boston Red Sox. You can listen to his daily radio show on 96.3FM in Portland, ME or at thebigjab.com. He is also the voice of the Maine Red Claws of the NBA D-League.You can follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisSedenka.

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