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: Wright 'able to neutralize' top of Orioles lineup

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Quotes, notes and stars: Wright 'able to neutralize' top of Orioles lineup

BALTIMORE -- Quotes, notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 7-2 win over the Orioles.

 

QUOTES

"He was able to neutralize their top half (of the lineup) and that was the biggest thing.'' - John Farrell on Steven Wright.

"He never broke stride, continued in a full-out gait around third base. It was a good heads-up play on his part.'' - Farrell on Mookie Betts scoring all the way from second on a swinging bunt.

"It kind of throws them off because then if I leave one up, I'm hoping the difference in the speed will get them out front.'' - Steven Wright on changing speeds on the knuckleball.

"Yeah, I do. Off the field. Not when I'm at the park, but off the field, I do.'' - Xander Bogaerts, acknowledging that he does think about his ongoing hitting streak.

"It was amazing. Hitting my first home run and putting us ahead three (more) runs, it's awesome.'' - Marco Hernandez on his first major league home run.

 

NOTES:

* Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 23 games with two doubles.

* Marco Hernandez's three-run homer in the eighth inning was his first major league homer.

* Mookie Betts has now reached in 13 straight games against the Orioles.

* Betts has scored 14 runs in his last 11 games.

* In his last seven games, David Ortiz is 14-for-28 in his last seven games.

* Ortiz has seven homers in his last 12 games at Camden Yards and 12 homers in his last 16 games here.

* Ortiz has homered in each of his last three games, the 18th time in his career that he's done that.

* Steven Wright tossed a career-high 122 pitches.

* Wright became the third Red Sox starter to toss three consecutive complete games on the road since Roger Clemens in 1991-92.

 

STARS:

1) Steven Wright

Wright's third complete game of the season was a gem, with just four hits allowed - just three them into the outfield. He's got a 1.79 ERA on the road this season.

2) Xander Bogaerts

In addition to extending his hitting streak to 23 games, Bogaerts had two doubles and knocked in two runs.

3) Marco Hernandez

Hernandez's first big league homer was a big one, extending what had been a two-run lead to a five-run cushion with a three-run blast in the eighth