It was three days before Jon Lester tossed eight more scoreless innings against what would figure to be his favorite team to pitch against, the Royals.
It was well ahead of the Sox' starter leading his team to Friday night's 1-0 win over KC, while having still not allowed an earned run in three career Fenway Park starts against the Royals.
But Josh Beckett knew of what he spoke when talking about Lester.
"Jon Lester is to me starting to mold into stuff-wise the best lefty in the game," Beckett said. "I know that there are guys who say he doesn't have the numbers to stack up against these guys, but as far as going about his business and the stuff I get to see on a day to day basis, he's turning into that guy.
"I actually cherish the time I get to spend with Jon Lester because I know down the road that's what people will be saying about this guy."
Well, that road just got a whole lot shorter. After Lester's latest outing -- which extended a streak in which he has allowed three earned runs or less in each of his last eight starts -- they're echoing Beckett's analysis.
The numbers back it up: Since truly catching fire, starting with his May 21 start in Toronto, there has been no lefty who has approached Lester's performance.
He has struck out 77 (23 more than second-place Ted Lilly), totaled a Major League-best 2.01 ERA (better than Clayton Kershaw's 2.03), and joined Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa in winning the most games of any southpaw (6). Lester has also allowed just three home runs with opponents hitting only .213 off of him during hte span.
And after watching his latest piece of work, in which Lester allowed just four hits and two walks while striking out eight over eight innings, it was a whole lot easier to understand Beckett's claims.
"He's a good pitcher," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona after his team regained a game lead over the Yankees. "The last couple of years he's started out slow and then he gets it going and he can be very dominant. He seems to get stronger as the year goes, which is a good thing for us."
The year, and the game.
From the seventh inning, on Lester has allowed opponents just a .171 batting average. His batting average against is also .242 the third time through the lineup, better than either the first or second go-rounds.
Lester, who threw 115 pitches against the Royals, has allowed just 14 hits in 81 (.172) at-bats on pitches 91-120. It was another case of a pitcher -- and his image -- solidifying which each passing moment.
"Last year at this time, or in May of last year, I was throwing 91, 92 (mph), or maybe 93, 94 if I got on it," Lester explained. "Obviously this year I'm a little bit stronger and further away from (cancer) treatment. So, it seems like the further and further I get, the stronger I get and the better I feel."
As for whether it has officially translated into Lester standing on top of heap when it comes to looking at lefties, there will be those standard bearers residing down in New York, C.C. Sabathia of the Yankees and the Mets' Johan Santana.
But consider this -- since Lester truly turned it around last season, beginning with an April 29 win over Toronto, this is how the Sox hurler has matched up:
Wins: Sabathia 24, Lester 23, Santana 22.
Innings: Sabathia 342 2/3, Santana 309, Lester 292 2/3.
Hits allowed: Lester 277, Santana 277, Sabathia 284.
Home runs allowed: Lester 22, Sabathia 24, Santana 33.
ERA: Sabathia 2.57, Santana 2.74, Lester 3.23.
Strikeouts: Sabathia 307, Santana 281, Lester 267.
Bottom line: Lester has entered the argument, with his case seemingly only getting better and better by the day.
GREEN IS CLUTCH BUNTER
Heading into Brian Bannister's fifth pitch of the eighth inning, Nick Green had attempted to sacrifice bunt eight times this season, the most on the team. Not one of the attempts, however, had been successful.
Evidently, Green had enough.
After fouling off his first two attempts to get pinch-runner Aaron Bates over to second base, and getting the bunt sign taken off by Francona, Green took matters into his own hands and squared around for the 0-2 pitch.
This time it worked, with Green coming away with just the Red Sox' seventh sacrifice hit this season (last in the majors, and 46 behind the Cincinnati).
"I do feel confident I can get it down, I just haven't done it a lot lately," Green said. "I used to bunt all the time, but I don't remember the last time I bunted with two strikes. It wasn't a career highlight."
Green wasn't lying when he said he used to do it a lot, having totaled 18 sacrifices between 2004 and '05. He hadn't however, had one in the majors since '06 with the Yankees.
BATES CAN RUN A LITTLE BIT
The Red Sox' rookie is a big guy, standing at 6-foot-2 and 232 pounds. When playing quarterback at Archbishop Mitty in San Jose, Calif. he towered over the lines, relying on his gun of a right arm while hanging in the pocket.
Simply put, the first baseman isn't known for his mobility. That was until Friday night.
After Mark Kotsay led off the eighth with a single, Francona called on Bates to pinch-run for the Sox' starting first baseman (who has been hampered by a tight calf). The rookie did the job, moving up to second on Green's bunt, before heading over to third on a Bannister wild pitch.
Bates then strode home with his first big league run when Dustin Pedroia supplied the game-winner on a double off the left field wall.
It wasn't exactly the most daunting of tests for the pinch-runner, but for Bates -- who ran a 4.9-second 40-yard dash in high school, and a 6.9 60 in college -- being there was more than half the battle.
"It's been a while," said Bates when trying to remember his last pinch-running duties. "I'm not fast, but it's not embarrassing. For me it's always like the first two or three steps are tough, but once I get going I'm OK."
ELLSBURY DIDN'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED
According to replays, the game shouldn't have been tied by the time Bates scored the game's only run in the eight. With one out in the fifth inning, Jacoby Ellsbury made a mad dash toward home plate after Kotsay got caught in a run-down between first and second.
Video showed that Ellsbury clearly beat the throw from first baseman Billy Butler to catcher Miguel Olivo, who tagged the baserunner on the shoulder after he had already slid across home plate.
Upon springing up and learning he was called out, Ellsbury immediately threw his helmet to the ground and started walking away from the play. Home plate umpire Derryl Cousins turned back toward the Sox' center fielder after the toss of the equipment had been made, but saw the helmet had been thrown and immediately gave Ellsbury his first ejection since high school.
But even after Francona came out to argue, and the Red Sox saw their inning end without a run, Ellsbury remained in the dugout. He had been unaware of Cousins' mandate.
"I didn't even know I was thrown out," Ellsbury said. "I was just walking in the dugout, getting ready to go out to center field, and they're like, 'You can't be in the dugout.' I was definitely in there, otherwise I wouldn't have had the reaction I did. My whole body was across the plate. I was coming up on my slide. It worked out and we won the game, but that's a pivotal play right there."
HITTING WAS A SIDE-NOTE FOR LOWELL
Mike Lowell took live batting practice for the first time since going on the 15-day disabled list while recovering from a sore right hip, Friday, and was hugely encouraged. Taking approximately 30 swings, Lowell had nothing to suggest he wouldn't be ready to return once the All-Star break comes to a conclusion.
But it was his running -- more specifically, the light sprints he executed in the outfield before the game -- which truly brought a smile to the third baseman's face.
"I felt like the running was the best I've felt all year," Lowell said. "Even the trainers were saying I was moving around a lot better than I had been."
YOUKILIS IS TAKING A PASS
Kevin Youkilis, who entered Friday night ninth in American League in home runs with 14, said he has declined the invitation to be part of the State Farm Home Run Derby at this year's All-Star Game.
Youkilis becomes the second Red Sox All-Star to choose not to participate Monday's event, with Jason Bay having said back in late May that he would never enter another Home Run Derby after not hitting a home run in the 2005 event.
"There's a lot of guys who have way more home runs that have been doing it before me," Youkilis said. "I think you miss out a lot of stuff with your family. It's not like I don't want to ruin my swing or anything. I just want to spend time with my son."