Lester lays egg; home struggles continue

773130.jpg

Lester lays egg; home struggles continue

BOSTON With the Red Sox hoping to get above .500 for the first time this season, this was not the kind of outing they needed from their ace.

Jon Lester lasted just four innings, giving up seven runs on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts against the light-hitting Rays, who at .246 as a team are 10th in the American League.

Of the six hits Lester allowed, half were home runs, tied for most home runs hes allowed in a game.(He also gave up three twice last season -- April 1, 2011 at Texas and June 18, 2011, against Milwaukee).

Lester took the loss, dropping his record to 3-4 while his ERA climbed from 3.95 to 4.72, as the Rays beat the Sox, 7-4, in the first of their three-game set at Fenway Park.

I wasnt good, didnt locate, he said. Felt like I had to throw the ball in a keyhole. Just one of those nights. When I was missing I was missing and when I was around the plate I was down the middle. Didnt make an adjustment. They did a good job of working counts, getting in hitters counts, make me pay for my mistakes.

Despite a crisp 1-2-3 first inning to start the game, Lester said he felt like he struggled from the start.

The whole time, he said. I think really the only at-bat in the whole game where I feel like I threw the ball where I wanted to, every pitch, was the first inning against Luke Scott who struck out looking at a 91-mph fastball. Other than that, just was a battle. Like I said, they did a good job of making me work and working for their pitch and not missing it. Just one of those nights, just frustrating. We worked so hard to get back to .500, played good baseball. I come out and have a performance like this. Its just unacceptable. Got to be better. Plain and simple.

Kevin Youkilis RBI single in the bottom of the frame gave him a brief lead. But, Lester gave up three walks in his outing one more than his past three starts combined. Lester has had just one shorter outing this season, April 17 against the Rangers in his third start of the year when he lasted just two innings. Other than that outing and Fridays, he had averaged just over 6 23 innings per start.

The Rays big blow came in the third on Matt Joyces grand slam, after a one-out walk to Carlos Pena and a single by B.J. Upton, and a two-out walk to Ben Zobrist. The grand slam was the second Lester has allowed in his career, along with one by Paul Konerko in the fourth inning on Sept. 30, 2010, in Chicago.

It looked like he had pretty good stuff going in, said manager Bobby Valentine. In the first inning he was looking pretty good. The game got away from him a little there with the walk to Pena and then the grand slam to Joyce obviously. The strike zone started eluding him and a couple left-handers that dont hit left-handers all that well got him.

The Rays added back-to-back home runs in the fourth a two-run shot by No. 9 hitter Elliot Johnson and a solo shot by Carlos Pena, who leads all batters with six home runs off Lester.

The seven runs allowed matched a season high for Lester. He had given up just four home runs in nine starts spanning 57 innings entering the game. He had held opponents to one or no home run in each of his last 20 starts since Aug. 5, 2011.

Even more perplexing are Lesters home-away splits.

In four starts at Fenway this season, spanning 21 innings, Lester has a 7.71 ERA, giving up 18 earned runs. He has allowed an opponents' batting average of .310 (27-for-87). With five home runs, two doubles, and a triple, (10 walks and 14 strikeouts) opponents are slugging .506 off him.

On the road, he has an ERA of 3.15, an opponents' batting average of .233, and slugging percentage of .349.

Most of the damage at home has come in two starts: Friday night and April 17 against the Rangers, when he gave up seven runs on eight hits in two innings.

Bad starts Ive had just come at home, he said. Theyre kind of skewed by two starts. Its just, thats baseball. If I had an answer, itd fix it. Just not going well right now for me here.

Bryan Holaday: David Price 'takes a lot of pride in what he does'

red_sox_david_price_071716.jpg

Bryan Holaday: David Price 'takes a lot of pride in what he does'

BOSTON -- There have been a significant amount of question marks surrounding David Price throughout his inaugural season with the Boston Red Sox.

Is he an ace? Is he mentally tough enough? Can he handle Boston?

Just to name a few.

Much like any player imported to Boston, the claim “He can’t handle the pressure in Boston” arises every so often.

And Price hasn’t always been his own best friend, frequently relying on the line “It’s me going out there and making pitches,” in addition to the claim that he’s never satisfied.

Price’s mellow demeanor isn’t something Boston fans are accustomed to -- they prefer Rick Porcello snarling at opponents.

Sometimes it might have seemed as if he lacked a killer instinct or didn’t have a sense of urgency, but Bryan Holaday, who played with Price in Detroit, has seen that’s not the case.

‘I’m sure he [pressing], it’s the nature of this game,” Holaday said about Price’s struggles earlier in the season. “Everybody wants to be at their best all the time and it’s not easy to do.”

However, he says that knowing full well that Price won’t display those emotions -- to anyone.

“He does such a good job on the mental side of things that even if he was, you wouldn’t be able to tell,” Holaday said before Price’s start Saturday night. “He’s never going to express anything like that. If he was [pressing], it’s nothing that anyone would be able to notice.”

There’s a lot to be said for that, too. Although baseball is driven on analytics, there’s no question that mental game is crucial, especially in the clubhouse. And a fly on the wall can easily see that Price’s presence is not only respected, but enjoyed by his teammates in the clubhouse.

“Everyday he gets up he wants to get better and that’s what makes him so good,” Holaday said. “He has that drive to be better everyday and come out and do his job. He takes a lot of pride in what he does and works his ass off. That’s why he is who he is. Any pitcher at that level, you don’t get that way by luck.”

Price may never be Boston’s favorite pitcher.

He may never be the “ace” in everyone’s eyes.

But based on Holday’s interpretations from his time in Detroit and Boston, Price will work hard to turn his first few months with the Red Sox into a minor footnote of his career.

Saturday's Red Sox-Royals lineups: Young in LF, Hill at 3B vs. KC lefty Duffy

red_sox_chris_young_041116.jpg

Saturday's Red Sox-Royals lineups: Young in LF, Hill at 3B vs. KC lefty Duffy

The Red Sox look to end their three-game losing streak tonight when the play the middle game of their three-game series with the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park.

Against Royals' left-hander Danny Duffy (11-1, 2.66 ERA), the Red Sox start right-handed hitters Chris Young in left field and Aaron Hill at third base. Duffy has won his past 10 decisions and came into Saturday with the fifth-best ERA in the American League. He joined the rotation from the bullpen on June 1.

Left-hander David Price (12-8, 4.00) gets the start for the Red Sox. Price has won his past three decisions, going eight, six and eight innings and not allowing more than three runs in each start. 

The Royals won the series opener 6-3 Friday night.

The lineups:

ROYALS
Paulo Orlando CF
Cheslor Cuthbert 3B
Lorenzo Cain RF
Eric Hosmer 1B
Kendrys Morales DH
Salvador Perez C
Alex Gordon LF
Alcides Escobar SS
Christian Colon 2B
---
Danny Duffy LHP

RED SOX
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Sandy Leon C
Chris Young LF
Aaron Hill 3B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
---
David Price LHP