Lester opens season with tough-luck loss

Lester opens season with tough-luck loss
March 31, 2014, 8:45 pm
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BALTIMORE -- Jon Lester liked nearly everything about his first start of 2014 -- except the outcome.
Lester limited a good Baltimore lineup to just two runs over seven innings in a hitter's ballpark Monday. In most outings, that would be enough for a win.
But because his teammates couldn't come up with a big hit at the right time, it was just a tough-luck loss.
"It was good," concluded Lester. "Obviously, the way I felt about it, the only thing that could have been better was if we had won. Other than that, I thought I threw the ball really well."
"I thought Jon was in control of the ballgame today," said manager John Farrell. "They made the most of the hits that he put up."
Lester made just two mistakes, both to Nelson Cruz. He walked Cruz to open the second and saw him come around with the game's first run on the back end of a double play.
Then, in the seventh, Lester's last, Cruz hit the first pitch he saw into the left field seats for a solo homer which provided the margin of difference.
"I felt pretty good from the start," said Lester. "I was missing a little bit in the first couple of innings. Really, the one thing that I thought hurt me was the leadoff walk in the second. Other than that, a bunch of singles (five of the six hits he allowed were singles) and a solo homer.
"Ordinarily, I like my chances (under those circumstances)."
After allowing a leadoff single in the third to Jonathan Schoop, Lester got locked in, retiring 11 of the next 13 hitters he faced until the fateful fastball to Cruz to open the seventh.
Lester stayed mostly with the hard stuff, mixing his four-seam fastball, sinker and cutter for most of the afternoon. He threw only a handful of curveballs, a pitch he didn't get a good feel for in spring training.
"I felt like I had a pretty good feel for it," said Lester. "I threw a couple of good ones to (Ryan) Flaherty, tried one to (Chris) Davis. But I felt like I had really good command of my fastball and my cutter, and for the most part, we really didn't have to go to anything else."
Lester issued just one walk (to Cruz) and fanned eight, the most he's recorded in any of his four Opening Day assignments.
But the support wasn't forthcoming.
"Sometimes you have to tip your hat to the other side," Lester said. "(Baltimore starter Chris) Tillman pitched out of jams and made some pitches when he had to. Sometimes, that's what happens."