Lester gem once again ends in defeat

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Lester gem once again ends in defeat

TORONTO -- Jon Lester has pitched 15 innings this season and has allowed just one run, but finds himself with an 0-1 record and a no-decision.

That tough-luck mark is attributable to two things: Lester has drawn two of the American League's best pitchers (Justin Verlander and Ricky Romero) as opposing starters; and the fact that his teammates have given him virtually no run support.

On Opening Day, Lester battled Verlander nearly pitch-for-pitch, but the Sox were blanked until the ninth, by which time Lester was out of the game.

It was only marginally better Wednesday in the Red Sox' road trip finale. Lester allowed two runs in the third and another in the eighth, but got just a single run of backing from the Boston lineup.

"Jon was fnatastic,'' said Bobby Valentine. "Other than the last inning, there was only one inning (Toronto) got hits in.

"That's the nature of the beast when you go up against guys like (Verlander and Romero),'' said Lester. "I got outpitched again. That's plain and simple.''

For the first time this season, the Red Sox scored before their opponents on Wednesday, nicking Romero for a run on three singles in the top of the third.

But the Jays countered quickly with two runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. Rajai Davis tripled home Eric Thames and Yunel Escboar followed with a sacrifice fly.

"A couple of balls that I left up, they hit,'' recounted Lester, "and they ended up scoring some runs. You can't do that against guys like Romero and Verlander. It just makes it too
hard on our offense to give (the opponent) a lead and have our guys try to fight from behind.''

Both starters settled in after that, with Lester retiring the next 15 hitters in a row. When he buckled in the eighth on a two-out walk, a botched pickoff throw and a run-scoring
single from Escobar, the Jays had themselves an insurance run that they wouldn't even need.

"We're not playing well right now,'' concluded Lester. "The games we pitch well, we don't hit. And the games we don't pitch well, we hit. We haven't put it together right now.''

AL East picture through April: Red Sox better than expected

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AL East picture through April: Red Sox better than expected

BOSTON -- With the first month of the season at coming to a close, Boston finds itself half a game behind Baltimore for first place and 2.5 games ahead of the third place Rays.

With the question marks surrounding the pitching staff behind David Price entering the season, among other issues, the Red Sox are in a much better position than initially expected.

John Farrell credits much of the early success to his potent offense.

“[We] finished better than we started I think the biggest thing is that guys in our lineup have developed that trust in one another,” he said. “There [are] some elements to our offense that’ve been very encouraging. The all-field approach and the way we’ve run the bases [have] been very consistent.”

It’s undeniable that the newfound consistency to the pitching staff has been a huge help -- although Farrell did note Clay Buchholz needs to get the ball rolling.

“The last two turns through the rotation has been more consistent. We’ve been able to give our guys in the bullpen a little bit more regular rest,” Farrell said. “I like the fact that we’ve added to the depth of power arms in our bullpen. We still have room for improvement we know that.

Entering the final game of the opening series against New York, the Red Sox and the Orioles are the only AL East teams with winning records against their inter-division rivals.

Even though they’ve performed better than anticipated, a case can be made that the Red Sox should sit in first place.

Tampa Bay shut them out in the opener, and won the final game of the series that was powered by a rare David Price implosion.

Toronto won the final two games of the second season series by the skin of its teeth, narrowly avoiding Red Sox comebacks in the ninth inning of each game.

Baltimore won the first game of its opening series in Boston thanks to a ninth inning home run.

New York has one game left before both teams leave town and, weather permitting, Boston has a chance to start May off properly -- by disposing of the only team in the AL East stuck with single digit wins.

With the ups and downs for the five AL East teams, Farrell doesn’t expect there will be disparity in the division.

“Every team has got their strengths,” he said. “We don’t expect this to be a huge separation among any of the five teams here. We’re all probably searching to sure up areas that we’re in need of. That first starts with making the necessary adjustments with the guys that are on our roster right now. Not that we’re going to make wholesale changes.”

Carson Smith (forearm) to be activated for road trip

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Carson Smith (forearm) to be activated for road trip

Reliever Carson Smith is set to be activated for the start of the upcoming road trip Tuesday in Chicago, and his arrival will be welcomed by the Red Sox.

Smith, a big off-season acquisition from Seattle last December, has missed the first month after suffering a strained flexor muscle in his forearm late in March.

His return can only boost a bullpen that has performed better in recent weeks.

But his return could force the Sox into a tough roster decision. It had been assumed that Smith would return at the expense of two other young relievers on the staff -- Matt Barnes or Heath Hembree -- but manager John Farrell hinted otherwise Sunday.

"Because we've leaned on our bullpen so much,'' said Farrell, "I think we've got to be careful that we don't fall back into a similar situation that we've just been able to survive and come out of, where we've given some ample rest. To prioritize an extra pitcher versus a bench player, that's an internal discussion that's ongoing right now.

"And we've got to be mindful that Carson comes back to us with a limited rehab so we've got to be careful on his frequency of use, so it's not being ruled out that we might go with an extra pitcher for the short-term.''

That would suggest that the Sox could send out Marco Hernandez, who returned to the team Saturday to once again give them four bench players.

Barnes has appeared in 10 games and compiled a 2.92 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings while Hembree is unscored upon in four appearances, covering nine innings.

Both players have options remaining that would allow the Sox to send them to Triple A without first exposing them to waivers.

But for the time being, it would seem that the two will remain, giving the Red Sox 13 pitchers and eight-man bullpen.

 

McAdam: Red Sox ‘won’t sit pat’ on underperforming players

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McAdam: Red Sox ‘won’t sit pat’ on underperforming players

Sean McAdam and Trenni Kusnierek discuss John Farrell’s comments that seems to call out Clay Buchholz’ performance this season.