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.

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers:

QUOTES

* “(Matt) Bush has tremendous arm, but what we’ve seen . . . I don’t know that there’s anyone that throws a hard enough to get it by Mookie [Betts]. Just lightening bat speed . . . The dugout erupted when he caught it.” - Farrell said on Betts’ ninth inning homerun.

* “It was an outstanding comeback. Just a tremendous character win tonight by our guys. The work that our bullpen did tonight was just outstanding. ” - John Farrell said following the comeback win over Texas.

* “Koji comes back after a couple of rough outings and was vintage Koji here tonight.” - Farrell said on Uehara striking out the side in the ninth to earn the save

* “The homerun. Without that homerun, you don’t get to that wild pitch.” - Jackie Bradley said on what the Red Sox dugout was more excited about in the ninth.

* “Winning, to me that’s everything. I definitely want to go out there and throw the baseball better. I want to win myself. But at the end of the day I want the Red Sox to win.” - David Price said following the Red Sox win, despite his inability to keep the game close throughout the duration of his start.

NOTES

* David Ortiz extended his hitting streak to 10 games with his fourth inning single. He’s now 12 for his last 36 during his 10-game hitting streak.

* Sandy Leon’s ninth inning double was his 12th hit of the year. He’s now 12-for-22 (.545) to start his 2016 campaign. Four of his hits are doubles and he also has four RBI. 

* David Price’s 2.1-inning start is his shortest with Boston yet. The lefty gave up a season-worst 12 hits -- the most hits he’s given up since May 8th last season in a 6.1 inning start.

* Hanley Ramirez’s two-run homerun marks his third in the last ten games.

* The Red Sox improve to 22-3 when Jackie Bradley Jr. hits a homerun following his 13th homerun of the season.

STARS

1) Mookie Betts

Betts had over three hours between his two base hits, but his second proved the most important. He launched a 2-0 fastball into left center, tying the game in the ninth.

2) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley laced a homerun into the right field second deck to put Boston in striking distance at 7-4. In addition to knocking in two runs, he scored in the ninth after he walked, starting the ninth inning comeback. 

3) Koji Uehara

Despite struggling of late, Uehara was called on to close and struck out the side to seal the win. He was the final piece of the 6.2 innings of relief from the bullpen that came in one of Boston’s biggest wins of the year.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar

First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

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First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

First impressions of the Boston Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Texas Rangers:

Boston’s offense is always in striking distance.

The Red Sox had an uphill battle from the get-go thanks to David Price’s tough outing.

But somehow they took advantage of Texas’ equally bad pitching—that just happened to be more spread out than Boston’s bad pitching.

If Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn’t earn a walk, or Sandy Leon doesn’t fight tooth and nail for a two-out double in the ninth, that Mookie Betts homerun can’t happen.

The Red Sox need another long outing from Steven Wright.

Obviously they’d prefer a strong performance -- but the knuckler may need to bite the bullet if he’s off Saturday night.

Boston’s bullpen has been used and abused of late, and needs some rest following the Chicago series and a 2.1 inning outing from Price.

Price continues to struggle against the Rangers in his career.

Even when he was able to walk out of the first with just the one run after a bases loaded double play, but couldn’t clamp down with two outs.

The biggest reason he struggled wasn’t his velocity—although it seemed down most of the night—but his location. He left a lot of pitches up in the zone and Texas is not the team you can do that with.

Although Price was bound to have a rough start, this start went worse than anyone could’ve anticipated. To say this was a bad start is putting it nicely.

Texas gave him a nice wake-up call. He still has room to grow.

Matt Barnes had a solid performance.

It wasn’t his best, but given the situation, he did well. First off, the Rangers are a very hot team and swing early in the count. Barnes left the ball up time after times, but only surrendered the one run.

Additionally, he entered the game far earlier than he’s used to -- in the midst of a blowout where his team was on the wrong end. That’s not an easy thing to walk into for a reliever, especially one who’s used to pitching late in tight ballgames.

He gave Boston a chance when the offense started to gain momentum.

Hanley Ramirez’s power continues to show.

Although he’s not hitting at the rate he did to start the year, Ramirez laced another homer against the Rangers Friday night.

This homerun may have been his most impressive, coming on a 1-2 slider away, driving it to straightaway center -- the deepest part of the ballpark.

Boston just saw what they look like when they almost blow games.

All season the talk around the league has been how explosive the Red Sox lineup is.

Well, the Rangers offense is right there with them. The league’s hottest team didn’t waist any time scoring, and had 15 hits before Boston pitching recorded an out in the fifth inning.

Although the Red Sox outslugged Texas late, they saw what a potent offense outside the AL East can do -- and how bad pitching can undo all of that.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar