Lester does 'terrific' job against Tigers

Lester does 'terrific' job against Tigers
April 5, 2012, 9:52 pm
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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.''

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