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June 27, 2013

Time for Lester to do what Lackey is doing

BOSTON — With Red Sox ace Clay Buchholz on the sidelines since June 8, the club needed Jon Lester to step up.

Instead, he’s been a disaster.

He has allowed 17 earned runs over three starts lasting just 15.1 innings. That’s a woeful 9.98 ERA when Boston needed him most. During that span, Lester’s ERA has increased nearly an entire run to 4.57.

Only one word describes that mess — unacceptable.

“We’ve got to get Jon Lester back on track,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “There’s no denying that. ... And there are signs within each outing that (his return to form) is imminent.”

Farrell my be optimistic, I am, however, calling out Lester. He hasn’t stepped up to the challenge of leading the rotation with Buchholz sidelined. Instead of being the ace, he has withered back into his unreliable 2012 form.

Without Buchholz, Lester should be the one giving the Red Sox a chance to win every time he starts — like John Lackey has been doing. Lackey was the winner here yesterday. He has started four games since Buchholz last pitched. In three of those four, Lackey went 7.0 innings and allowed just two runs in each.

Lester needs to take a few lessons from Lackey. The struggling lefty takes the mound today here at Fenway Park against the surging Toronto Blue Jays — winners of 12 of their past 14 games — and he finally needs to pitch the way he is capable of. No more giving up two-out runs in bunches.

No more fuming over calls and letting his emotions get the better of him. No more nibbling around the strike zone. No more four-run innings.

Can vintage Lester finally return when this team needs him the most? You know, the Lester who dominated from 2008 through September 2011 but has been absent ever since except for fleeting periods of dominance.

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