Wind: 1.01 m/h
Ever since Stephen Strasburg was sent to the IL with right shoulder inflammation, the Washington Nationals have been making ends meet with four starting pitchers.
That's no longer the case, as Jon Lester made his regular-season debut Friday night for the Nats, a 2-1 extra innings win over the Marlins.
No one will confuse Lester for Strasburg, but the 37-year-old left-hander has seen plenty of success in the big leagues, including an 18-win season as recently as 2018. He’s also a five-time All Star and three-time World Series champion, and he threw a no-hitter for the Red Sox in 2008.
There are tons of accolades, but what can Lester still bring to the table for Washington in 2021?
Admittedly, his two most recent seasons weren’t pretty. In 43 starts since the beginning of 2019, he posted an ERA of 4.64. Granted, he won more games than he lost over that span, but the Nats would still prefer for him to be more productive than that.
As a rule, Lester typically relies on a four-seam fastball and cutter around 30 percent of the time, complimented by a sinker, curveball and changeup. All three offspeed pitches are effective, giving him the type of arsenal that many of Washington’s other starters don’t have.
At long last, after being sidelined for a month due to COVID-19, Nats fans got to take a look at the hefty lefty.
Lester was understandably on a pitch limit Friday, but he was effective. Over five innings and 70 pitches, he held the Marlins to five hits and two intentional walks.
His lone strikeout was of catcher Sandy Leon – the one-time backup in Washington. He also allowed a lot of hard-hit balls throughout the night, even though they ultimately did no damage. However, he forced nine groundouts, including a double play off the bat of Garrett Cooper.
For scatterplot fans, here’s how his pitch distribution looked.
The fact that he had a successful outing is great, but the most important thing is that Lester was able to join the rotation and escape the night without any adverse ramifications.
Patrick Corbin and Max Scherzer will start the next two games, which will be followed by an off day on Monday. For now, Joe Ross will be skipped, although he may still make a start on Tuesday against the Braves.
Lester’s presence in the rotation provides stability, especially when compared to options like Austin Voth and Paolo Espino. Once Strasburg comes back, fans will finally get to see Washington’s new starting staff on full display.