BOSTON -- Jon Lester has now gone seven starts -- and nearly six weeks -- without winning a baseball game. Tuesday marked the second straight outing that Lester felt he had electric stuff, but he only had an "L" to show for it.
What more is there to say?
"I can't keep talking about being frustrated and all this stuff," Lester said after the Red Sox's 6-3 loss to the Rangers. "It's like beating a dead horse. Everybody knows here that we're frustrated and we don't like losing. We keep beating a dead horse. But there's positives for me personally from this game that I'm going to take and go forward to the next one."
Lester knows that to wallow in his lack of fortune (5-10, 5.36 ERA) isn't going to do anybody around him any good, including himself.
"No, I've got to look at the positives," Lester said. "I've got to keep looking at the positives. Like I just said, three or four [bad] pitches out of 111, 112 pitches, that's a positive. An offense like that beats you when you make those types of mistakes. It was what it is. It was their night. [Ryan] Dempster did a better job of minimizing damage. I'll keep looking at the positives and keep moving forward."
The Red Sox fell below .500 again at 55-56 and are 4 1/2 games back in the American League Wild Card standings.
Lester wound up going 6 2/3 innings, giving up six hits and four runs. He walked two and struck out four, throwing 116 pitches.
"It's almost Groundhog Day," said manager Bobby Valentine. "It's another heck of a performance. We didn't score the runs, he didn't get the breaks. A couple of curveballs to a couple of left-handers ended up hurting him and a well-executed hit-and-run."
Trailing 4-0, Will Middlebrooks gave the Red Sox a jolt of hope with a pinch-hit three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh.
"When you're put in that situation and you're a pinch-hitter, your job is to drive in runs," Middlebrooks said. "I was just looking for a pitch up in the zone and it happened to be the first pitch."
But Mark Melancon allowed an insurance RBI single to Nelson Cruz in the eighth, making it 5-3.
Frustration boiled over for the Red Sox in the bottom of the eighth when Dustin Pedroia struck out on a controversial call. First-base umpire Paul Nauert said Pedroia didn't check his swing. Pedroia wound up being ejected during the top of the ninth.
"It was a bad call," Lester said. "He obviously told him he was wrong. He plays this game with a lot of heart, and for him to get that fired up, he obviously knew he was right. It was a bad call. I wouldn't say a turning point in the game, but if he battles and gets a guy on there, maybe it's a different game."
Naturally, Adrian Gonzalez followed Pedroia's strikeout by hitting a double off the wall in left that didn't lead to any runs.
Over the first five innings, Lester was perhaps the best he's been all season, allowing just two singles while facing 16 batters.
"We just worked some counts when we could," Rangers outfielder David Murphy said. "Lester had great stuff. He has good stuff period and he was locating well. The umpire had a small strike zone tonight and that helped. We just tried to do whatever we could to put runs across. We just had a solid offensive game against a pitcher who has good stuff."
The Rangers got to him in the sixth. Murphy started it with a double to right. The hit came right after Lester thought he had whiffed Murphy on two straight pitches.
"Yeah. I've got to keep making pitches. Those always seem to come back and bite you," Lester said. "You feel like you -- you don't feel like -- it was a missed call. You're trying to execute your next pitch. The curveball just kind of rolled in there instead of where I wanted it to be. Murph did a good job of staying in and doing his job. I just have to execute a better pitch."
With one out, Ian Kinsler ripped an RBI single. Again, Lester though he got robbed on a call, this time on a 2-2 pitch to Josh Hamilton. But home-plate umpire Lance Barrett called it a ball. Hamilton then ripped an RBI single to right to make it 2-0. As Lester came off the field following the third out, he voiced his frustration to Barrett, mouthing several times, "Those were good pitches."
Texas added to its lead in the seventh. Michael Young drew a one-out walk and Geovany Soto laced a single to right, putting runners at the corners. Murphy added an insurance run with a sacrifice fly to left.
After Lester walked Mike Olt, Valentine replaced him with Melancon. Kinsler greeted him with an RBI single to left and Texas had a 4-0 lead.
Just like in his last start against the Red Sox -- on June 15 at Wrigley Field -- Dempster was dominant. He took a four-hit shutout into the seventh.
"He did a good job," Lester said. "He did a good job against us in Chicago. Obviously he feels pretty comfortable with our lineup. I've just got to keep going out there and trying to execute pitches. It keeps coming back to three, four, five pitches that end up costing me the game. That's the way it goes sometimes."
But the long-awaited rally from Boston finally came in that bottom of the seventh. Jarrod Saltalamacchia started it with a one-out single to right. With one out, the Red Sox got a break, as Kinsler booted Ryan Kalish's routine grounder. Middlebrooks pinch-hit for Nick Punto and belted a three-run homer that just cleared the Monster.
That was the end of the positive momentum for the Red Sox, as another one slipped away, ending a brief two-game winning streak.