The veteran southpaw Jon lester he had been searching for answers. His last two starts had lasted six innings combined, and something had to change in the second half of his 16th season. Step 1: He pitches seven scoreless innings. Step 2: Hit a home run just in case.
Lester did it all in the victory of the Washington Nationals by 18-1 scoreline over the Miami Marlins on Monday at Nationals Park. The experienced left-hander made his longest outing since July 27, 2019, as a member of the Chicago Cubs:
Lester allowed six hits and struck out seven with 81 efficient pitches (59 strikes). By comparison, he used 80 pitches to go 2 2/3 innings in his last start on July 10 in San Francisco. Lester improved to 3-4 on the season and posted his 196 career victory.
Lester had thrown to a 2-4 record with a 5.54 ERA in the first half of the season. Six of his 14 starts had lasted four innings or less, and his strikeout rate per nine innings dropped to 6.0. But Lester clearly seemed revitalized when he returned from the All-Star break with an eight-day rest between starts.
Lester may have drawn even more attention with his plate work, where a line single to right field in the second inning was just a preview of what he had in store.
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In the fifth, he hit a 419-foot home run projected by Statcast to center field off a 92.5 mph fastball from David Hess for his fourth career home run. His family was in the stands to witness the not-so-common occurrence: It was Lester’s fourth career homer, and his fourth and fifth hits of the season.