Lester searching for answers

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Lester searching for answers

BOSTON -- Jon Lester said earlier this season he was searching. Searching for what has been lacking, searching for a put-away pitch, searching for ways to get out of jams, searching for answers.

It was evident he was still on his hunt Tuesday night, as the Red Sox fell to the White Sox, 7-5, at Fenway Park. Lesters record fell to 5-7, as his ERA climbed from 4.49 to 4.80.

Its been a frustrating year, frustrating night, Lester said. Just keeps adding on. Im getting tired of it. try to make adjustments, try to do the things I need to do, and just not getting results.

Lester was working on extra rest, at his request, manager Bobby Valentine said. He last pitched July 8, the day before the All-Star break. Perhaps that was the reason?

Another loss. It doesnt matter if you rest or not, he said. A loss is a loss. It stinks.

I felt fine. Felt like any other start. Obviously its nice to have a break but just got to do a better job executing pitches. Just not doing it now.

He needed 91 pitches (57 strikes) to get through just four innings, giving up six runs on seven hits and three walks with four strikeouts. Lester, though, insisted he was not searching.

No. I feel fine mechanically, feel fine with the process, he said. When the balls leaving my hand Im not in the part of the zone that I need to be. Im up a little bit. Dont know what it is. Just got to keep throwing the ball. It'll turn.

Lester gave up two runs on 27 pitches in the first inning, facing six batters, and putting himself in a hole right away. While the Sox offense came back with two in the home half of the first, Lester gave up another run in the second. He has allowed at least one run in the first inning of each of his last four starts, the longest stretch of his career, and a combined six runs in those first innings.

It was a frustrating night for Jon, Valentine said. After he gave up the two in the first and we came back I thought hed be able to settle down and get us a victory. His control just wasnt there. I dont know if it was the long layoff or what. Walks are really uncommon for him.

The big blow against Lester came in the fourth inning. With two outs and two on, and the Red Sox trailing by a run, Kevin Youkilis launched a three-run blast into the Monster seats to put the White Sox up, 6-2. It was Youkilis 18th RBI in 18 games since being traded to the White Sox on June 24.

Lester fell behind, 3-and-0, to Youkilis before working back to 3-and-2. Then he threw a 93-mph fastball.

Three-two fastball. Youks a good hitter. Weve all seen him for a long time do what he did. Just bad location, bad spot, bad time--all the above, Lester said.

But with the left-handed Adam Dunn on deck, Lester had the option of issuing an intentional walk to Youkilis.

Obviously, you think about it, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. You got Dunn on deck. Lefty-lefty matchups a good matchup. But at that point we came back to a 3-2 count. I dont second guess any kind of a fastball from Jonny. So, if it goes the other way, no ones questioning anything.

This time it went Youkilis way. Lester then struck out Dunn, looking.

Lesters four innings matched his second-shortest outing of the season, May 25 against the Rays, behind only his April 17 outing against the Rangers, when he lasted just two innings. He has given up six or more runs three times, all in his shortest outings. It is most such outings in his career. His previous high was two such outings in 2010.

In his last outing, July 8 against the Yankees, he needed 101 pitches to get through just 4 13 innings. in his last two starts combined he has gone just 8 13 innings, giving up 11 runs, 10 earned runs for a 10.80 ERA.

Valentine, like Lester, is at a loss to explain the left-handers lackluster performances this season.

Really, if we knew, wed be working on correcting it, Valentine said. Hes working as hard as anyone, thinking about things as much as anyone, maybe thinking too much. Who knows? Hes throwing with good velocity. His curveballs pretty good, his changeups OK. Just that one little thing doesnt seem to go right, you know.

The White Sox, in particular, have been able to give Lester fits. In nine career starts against them, Lester has a record of 4-4 with 5.21 ERA, his highest career ERA against any American League team. In two career starts at Fenway, he is 0-2 with an 8.82 ERA.

He has also struggled at home this season. He is 2-5 with a 6.29 ERA in 11 starts at Fenway; 3-2 with a 3.04 ERA in eight road starts. He is scheduled to make his next start Sunday, in the homestand finale against the Blue Jays.

In the meantime, hell continue searching.

I dont think theres anything else I can work on, he said. Ive worked on everything. Just come game time I've got to throw the ball better, plain and simple. Its frustrating showing up every day and busting my butt and going out there and busting my butt when I pitch and just not pitching well. Im letting my team down. Guys did a great job in that first inning picking me up and I didnt pick them right back up. I got to get them right back in the dugout and I didn't do it. I havent been doing it all year. So its got to change.

First impressions: Detroit Tigers 4, Boston Red Sox 3

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First impressions: Detroit Tigers 4, Boston Red Sox 3

BOSTON -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Detroit on Wednesday afternoon:

1) Eduardo Rodriguez pitched pretty well, but not well -- or deep -- enough.

Rodriguez has now made three starts since coming back from Pawtucket and any one of them was better than his starts from earlier this year.

He's no longer tipping his pitches, he's commanding better in general and his fastball has been more powerful.

But he's also giving up a lot of hits (19 in 18 innings) and he's gotten through the sixth inning just once in his three outings. For a team short in its bullpen, that's leaving a big workload for the relievers.

2) The late-inning comebacks have been in short supply.

Yes,  the Red Sox have scored runs by the boatload at times. And yes, they've mostly played hard this season.

But before Wednesday, the Sox had been just 3-35 when trailing after seven innings and they had enjoyed only two walkoff wins all season.

Those numbers can be misleading, of course. Teams can dig out from early holes -- as the Red Sox did Tuesday night.

But the ninth-inning rallies haven't happened much. In fact, on the current home stand, the Sox have had the top-to-middle part of the order up in the bottom of the ninth -- with David Ortiz getting an at-bat each time -- on four separate occasions, trailing by a run or two, and couldn't produce a winning rally.

3) Clay Buchholz may be pitching himself out of the doghouse

After going weeks -- literally --between appearances, Buchholz has been called upon four times in the last seven games.

Granted, in most of those games, the Red Sox have been trailing. But the games were such that they were still within reach, contradicting John Farrell's remarks late last week when he broadly hinted that he didn't trust Buchholz in games that were close.

Slowly, however, Buchholz could be earning some trust coming out of the bullpen. He had a perfect inning Wednesday with the Sox trailing by a run at the time.

Wednesday's Red Sox-Tigers lineup: E-Rod aims to avoid sweep

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Wednesday's Red Sox-Tigers lineup: E-Rod aims to avoid sweep

BOSTON -- The Red Sox send Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound as they attempt to salvage the final game of their homestand and avoid a sweep at the hands of the Tigers.

Today's lineups:

TIGERS:
Ian Kinsler 2B
Jose Iglesias SS
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Nick Castellanos 3B
Justin Upton LF
Mike Aviles RF
James McCann C
Tyler Collins CF
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Michael Fullmer P

RED SOX:
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Aaron Hill 3B
Travis Shaw 1B
Sandy Leon C
Brock Holt LF
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Eduardo Rodriguez P