Lester does 'terrific' job against Tigers


Lester does 'terrific' job against Tigers

DETROIT -- Just like last year, Jon Lester Thursday was the starting pitcher of an Opening Day loss for the Red Sox.
But the comparisons end there.
A year ago, Lester was tagged for three homers and allowed three homers over 5 13 innings as the Sox lost to Texas, 9-5.
On Thursday, the Sox' loss might have been more frustrating -- coming as it did in the bottom of the ninth after the Red Sox had rallied for two runs in the top of the inning -- but Lester was far better than a year ago.
Matched against last year's A.L. Cy Young and MVP winner, Justin Verlander, Lester had little margin for error. He didn't make many.
Lester pitched seven innings and allowed just one run on six hits.
"Lester was terrific,'' gushed manager Bobby Valentine. "He did just what he needed to do -- go out there and put up innings. He did a great job.''
"I kept the team in the game,'' said Lester. "Even though we lost, it's a great confidence booster to go out and go pitch-for-pitch against a great guy.''
The lefty noted that the outing represented something of a "grind,'' since he didn't have a good feel for his off-speed pitches, especially early in the game.
The Tigers put the leadoff runner on base against Lester four times in the first five innings, but on three of those occasions, Lester got double plays to get out of trouble.
"I was trying to figure out ways to put guys away,'' he said. "Obviously, Verlander's Verlander. He's tough. He didn't give us a lot of opportunities and the opportunities we had, he shut us down. Sometimes, on this side, you have to tip your hat to the other guy and say he did a great job.''
The only run off Lester came with some controversy attached. In the seventh, after two were out, Jhonny Peralta doubled to left.
Lester then got ahead of Alex Avila 1-and-2 and on a 2-and-2 pitch, believed he had struck the Tigers' catcher out. Home-plate umpire Dale Scott ruled otherwise as the count ran full.
Avila then drove Lester's next pitch the other way, just beyond the outstretched glove of left fielder Cody Ross into the corner, scoring Peralta with the first run.
"Hell, I think everything's a strike,'' said Lester with a wry smile of the pitch in question. "Then it was 3-and-2, I was trying to make him put it in play and he put a good swing on it. Sometimes that happens.
"I made one mistake. And against a guy like Verlander, that's what beats you.''

Celtics bench hurting with Smart out


Celtics bench hurting with Smart out

The Boston Celtics don’t reveal a ton about what happens behind their closed-door practices, but there were a couple of significant narratives that developed in the preseason.

Chief among them was the development of the bench which on many occasions, outplayed the starters.

Leading the second team surge on many days in the preseason was Marcus Smart, whose absence during the first two games of the season has been obvious.

Smart suffered a left ankle sprain injury in the Celtics’ final preseason game, an injury that CSNNE.com reported at the time would sideline him for a couple of weeks.

A few days later, Smart confirmed the report by indicating he would be out of action for two weeks from the time of the injury.

That puts his return to the floor being Nov. 3 at Cleveland which would mean he would be missing the first four games of the season.

One of the reasons why the second unit had so much success against the starters, was the rhythm they developed playing with and off one another.

Trying to re-establish that on the fly without Smart has proven to be challenging at times for Boston’s second unit.

In the season-opening win over Brooklyn, Boston’s second unit was called upon to simply hold down a lead in the fourth quarter that peaked at 23. But the lead steadily shrunk and head coach Brad Stevens was forced to bring his starters back into the game.

And last night at Chicago, the second unit was never able to deliver the kind of impact-making plays that Boston’s backups can do.

But it goes beyond what Smart can do on the floor when he plays. Like most of his teammates, Smart’s presence has a way of allowing his other teammates to get into a rhythm and get accustomed to whatever role they are asked to play.

Without him, everyone’s job shifts just a little bit.

“They’re trying to figure it out on the fly,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “They had a few practices, maybe one tough day of practice without him; it’s tough. They’re trying to figure it out. There’s no other way to figure it out but in the game.”

New photos show Sandoval has lost weight


New photos show Sandoval has lost weight

The last time a bunch of pictures of Pablo Sandoval made headlines, it was not a good sign for the Red Sox. The latest batch isn’t so bad. 

Sandoval became the story of spring training this season when photos -- specifically a Boston Globe one of him throwing -- revealed he’d gained significant weight. The veteran third baseman was surpassed by Travis Shaw for the starting job and began the season as a bench player. 

After three regular-season games, Sandoval was put on the disabled list with a shoulder strain. He was then shut down for the season in May due to shoulder surgery. 

In a tweet and story posted by FC Barcelona, a smiling -- and noticeably thinner -- Sandoval could be seen attending the club’s final training session. 

Sandoval, 30, is entering the third season of a five-year, $95 million contract. In his lone full season in Boston, 2015, Sandoval hit .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers and 47 RBI.