He struck out the side in the fifth inning of a 4-3 win over the Yankees, and the last of those strikeouts -- also his last of the night -- gave him the team mark for most batters fanned by a lefty. He finished the night with 1,044, passing Bruce Hurst.
But Lester, who took a no-decision in the walk-off win, also walked a career-high seven batters. That eclipsed his previous high by two. Despite the control issues, he allowed just three runs on five hits over 5 1/3 innings.
"First pitch on, I was pitching uphill the whole night," said Lester, who's seventh on the Sox's all-time strikeout list behind Luis Tiant, who has 1,075. "I wasn't giving myself a chance. I wasn't in good pitchers' counts. I just didn't have a feel for anything. It was one of those nights where I had to battle through it."
Battle was the word catcher Ryan Lavarnway kept using in discussing Lester's night, while acknowledging Lester "didn't have his best command today.'
Home-plate umpire Chad Fairchild might have had something to do with the trouble, at least from the Sox's perspective. Manager Bobby Valentine went to the mound after Lester walked the first two batters of the third inning, and Valentine had words about Fairchild -- not to Fairchild. Well, not directly anyway.
"Oh, I never speak to the umpire in those [situations]," Valentine said. "I might have been speaking to Jon about the umpire. The umpire might have heard me. Call it a hunch."
The Yankees were aware they missed opportunities with all those free passes, but they didn't discredit Lester's escapability.
"He pitches. He knows how to pitch," said Derek Jeter, who started the game with a walk and knocked Lester out in the sixth with a two-run ground-rule double. "He didn't have his control like I'm sure he would have liked to, but he made big pitches when he needed to. ... Bottom line, we have to try to find ways to score more runs. You tip your cap to the pitcher sometimes, too, but he didn't have a lot of control, so we had a lot of opportunities we let get away from us."
Lester came into the night with a career mark of 8.2557 strikeouts per nine innings, ninth among active starting pitchers with at least 1,000 innings.
Lester struck out Steve Pearce on a 1-2 curveball to take the record. Hurst spent nine seasons with the Red Sox, from 1980-88, and set his former record in 237 games and 217 starts. Lester, who has been with the Red Sox for his entire seven-year career, matched and broke it in 184 games and 183 starts.