A shiny outing for the left-hander would've put positive punctuation on his season, but the fact remained that he reached his stated goal of 200 innings and the rest of the season didn't fall into place.
Lester was both effective and fortunate Tuesday when he worked out of a few jams in five innings, battling a back spasm in the final frame. A pair of double plays that Mark Teixeira hit into and Jose Iglesias turned perfectly with Dustin Pedroia helped. Lester let up eight hits and walked one, but he allowed just a lone run, with a single strikeout to boot.
"Lester gave us everything he had," manager Bobby Valentine said. "He had that little spasm there in the fifth, wanted to finish the inning, [and] he did. And you know, complete his season on a good note, just a little frustrating note. He didn't get a 'W' out of it. It's been a frustrating year."
Lester could've gotten a little luckier. He left with the Sox up 2-1, and for the sixth time this season, the team let a win he was in line for slip away. He's tied for third most in the Majors in that category.
Still, Lester leaves 2012 with the highest ERA of his career, and his first higher than 3.50 in a season of at least 190 innings. His final numbers: 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA in 205 1/3 innings, with 166 strikeouts and 68 walks. He gave up 25 home runs, too, five more than his previous career high.
"I did what I could," Lester said Wednesday. "I took the ball every five days and threw as many innings as I could, and the rest just didn't fall into place I feel like, going into a season, that's all I can control -- how many times I take the ball, how many innings I throw. Usually, five out of six years, it takes care of itself, so I'll take those odds and come back next year and go with the same goals and get right back up on the hill and do it again.
"I'm going to say the same thing to y'all the first day [of Spring Training]: My goal is 200 innings, and the rest will take care of itself. That's all I can control. ... I'm going to continue to do the same things I've done the last six years -- bust my [butt] this winter, show up at Spring Training ready to go, show up early, set an example and get after it."
Lester tweaked his back while warming up then felt it again in the fifth, but postgame he said it felt fine.
Going into the offseason, Lester said he wasn't concerning himself with the retooling of the team, although he said he would hope management makes some supporting moves.
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia called Lester's performance on Tuesday "awesome," and Saltalamacchia was proud of the way Lester moved through the season. Saltalamacchia acknowledged, too, though, that more adjustments were coming.
"The league makes adjustments," Saltalamacchia said. "A lot of guys, when you're Jon Lester, going into every season, you're a Cy Young candidate, so everybody knows that. It's not like everybody sits there and goes, 'Oh we're good, we got Lester tonight.' They know Jonny, so they're watching video, they're seeing what his tendencies are. They know he's got the cutter, so a lot of the league's changing. They bear down against him. That's something that he knows. It's just making the adjustment to them as well. He's that good that he can make an adjustment and become any kind of pitcher."
Lester actually had a higher ERA (5.23) in the second half than the first (4.49).