Just when Jon Lester had seemingly put an end to his struggles, he ran into an injury scare in the middle of a strong outing. Fortunately for both he and the Boston Red Sox, the ailment wasn't serious and won't keep him from the mound Wednesday night.
The left-hander hopes to sustain the improvement from his last start as he takes on the San Diego Padres at Fenway Park.
Lester (8-4, 4.61 ERA) started off 6-0 through his first nine outings, then fell into a seven-start slump that saw him go 1-4 with a 7.30 ERA, lasting more than six innings only twice.
He appeared to right himself Thursday against Toronto, yielding two runs and three hits in the first seven innings and retiring the first 10 batters he faced. But he gave up back-to-back singles to begin the eighth and then was caught in a 3-0 count in the next at-bat, prompting manager John Farrell to remove him from the game after Lester aggravated his hip.
The two-time All-Star has since been evaluated and appears to be good to go for Wednesday. One could understand Farrell's caution, considering the club has already been without Clay Buchholz since June 8.
"Based on all the maintenance work he (Lester) currently does, and the strength exams that he goes through, the range of motion is good," Farrell told the team's official website. "There's nothing that is glaring."
Home runs were an issue for Lester during his run of bad starts, as he yielded nine in 40 2-3 innings after allowing four through his first 59 2-3 innings. He held the Blue Jays homerless.
The Padres have batted .220 during a 2-8 stretch and will try to avoid matching a season-high five-game skid.
Boston (51-34) has just one homer during its 6-1 run, but has found a way to produce in other ways, such as Brandon Snyder's bases-clearing double in the fourth inning of a 4-1 win over San Diego (40-44) in Tuesday's opener.
The Red Sox are averaging 5.9 runs and 11.7 hits over their last seven contests.
Jacoby Ellsbury was 2 for 4 Tuesday to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. He's 21 for 51 (.412) during the run and has also hit safely in all seven of his interleague contests this season, going 15 for 31 (.484) with five doubles.
Looking to slow down Boston's offense will be Edinson Volquez (6-6, 5.50). Volquez has had his share of struggles but is 2-1 with a 3.04 ERA over his last four outings, striking out 30 in 23 2-3 innings while allowing 21 hits. He struck out eight and gave up two runs over six innings in a 9-2 win at Miami on Friday.
"I felt great. Everything was working tonight," said Volquez, who walked one after matching a career high with seven in his previous start. "I just want to be aggressive in the strike zone, not walk too many hitters and stay in the game six or seven innings."
He left without a decision in his only start against Boston, giving up three runs - two earned - over seven innings for Cincinnati on June 14, 2008.
Wednesday marks Lester's first interleague start this season. He's 11-5 with a 3.13 ERA in 21 career starts versus NL teams.