"He threw an awful lot of pitches," said Francona, "and he didn't have the command he needed."
For the short time he was in the game, Lester was a model of inefficiency, throwing 93 pitches, 54 of them for strikes, to get through just three and 1/3 innings.
Lester himself was more direct when asked about his performance.
"I was just terrible. There's no way around it, I just wasn't very good tonight," he said.
The Angels jumped on Lester for a run in the first on three singles, with a double play mixed in, saving Lester from what could have been a bigger inning. In the second inning, the Angels tacked on two more, when four of the first five batters reached Lester for hits.
Meanwhile, Dustin Moseley was cruising along, facing only 10 batters in the first three innings. It was looking like another long night for the Sox until Lester seemed to find his groove in the bottom of the third, when he faced only four batters, striking out two.
In top of the fourth, however, the game changed dramatically when suddenly Moseley seemed anything but in control. Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis led off the fourth inning with singles, and Manny Ramirez, J.D. Drew and Mike Lowell followed with successive doubles, taking the Sox from a 3-0 deficit to a 4-3 lead, and seemingly putting the momentum on their side.
Unfortunately, after striking out the first batter in the bottom of the inning, Lester ran into trouble of his own making, as he then walked Erick Aybar and Reggie Willits in succession. After a double steal put the runners on second and third, Chone Figgins doubled them in and Lester's night was over.
According to Lester, it wasn't that one thing he was doing wrong, it was everything.
"I was not getting ahead, not throwing strikes, when throwing strikes, getting too much of the plate," he said. "It's a little easier to take since we won, but you don't ever want to pitch like that."
"You have to remember that he's a young pitcher," Francona pointed out. "He's still a work in progress, but he listens well and he learns."
It's that learning where Francona also thinks Lester has to focus.
"When there is a pitch that doesn't go his way or he doesn't get a call," Francona said, "He needs to be the 6-foot-4 pitcher he is and get back up on the mound."
With the game's momentum seemingly shifting once again to the Angels, Orlando Cabrera drilled reliever Julian Tavarez's pitch back up the middle, where Pedroia was able to grab it for the second out and then double Figgins off second to end the inning and the Angels rally.
That might have been the key to the game, as the Sox bullpen took control from that point.
"The bullpen was tremendous tonight," observed Francona. "From Tavarez out, they did a heck of a job."
Trailing by a run, Julio Lugo and Pedroia started off the fifth with singles, and just as the Angels had done the inning before, advanced on a double steal. Lugo came home on Youkilis's sacrifice fly and Pedroia gave Boston the lead when he scored on Mike Lowell's single.
The Angels tied the score in the bottom of the inning, but that was to be the end of the scoring for Los Angles, as Mike Timlin, Hideki Okajima, Eric Gagne and Jonathan Papelbon turned in a masterful performance.
"Timlin getting four outs was exactly what we needed," Francona said. "Then we could go to Okajima on rest, and set up the others. If [Timlin] had stumbled, we might not have been able to do that."
Boston seemed determined to take the game, and when Pedroia led off the seventh with his fifth home run of the season, giving the Red Sox a 7-6 lead, there was a sense that they had wrestled control of the game from the Angels.
In the eighth, the Red Sox picked up two insurance runs as everything went their way. Coco Crisp struck out to lead off the inning, but reached first on a passed ball. Brandon Moss followed with a single, and an errant throw on a pickoff moved the runners up to second and third, where Crisp was able to score on a sacrifice fly by Lugo. Moss advanced to third on a groundout, and after Scot Shields hit Youkilis to put runners on the corners, he uncorked a wild pitch providing Boston with their ninth and final run of the night.
For Lester, it's now a matter of figuring out what's going wrong.
"I've done this back-to-back times now, and hopefully we can make some adjustments and figure it out," he said.
For the rest of the team, it's a matter of using the travel day to rest up and regroup from what was a hard road trip.
"That was a tough one," said Francona. "They played us so hard."