BOSTON Jon Lesters first half ended as fruitlessly for the Red Sox as it began. With a loss.
Sunday night in the first-half finale against the Yankees at Fenway Park, Lester lasted just 4 13 innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on nine hits and two walks with six strikeouts. He took the loss, as the Sox fell to the Yankees, 7-3. Lesters record fell to 5-6 while his ERA rose to 4.49.
Lester set the tone for his outing by following a frustrating trend for Sox starters in the four-game set with the Yankees. In all, Sox starters gave up 14 runs in the first inning of each of the games. Lester gave up two Sunday, digging a hole for himself to work from. He needed 29 pitches (17 strikes) to get through the inning.
"Jon had another uphill battle," Bobby Valentine said. "He was throwing the ball well. You look up and he's at 100 pitches in the fifth inning."
This was the first time Lester had faced the Yankees this season. He has lost his last three starts against New York, after winning his previous five. He is now 2-2 with a 5.11 ERA in 8 career starts against the Yankees at Fenway.
This was the third-shortest outing of Lesters 18 starts this season.
Well, obviously not good, Lester said of his latest outing. Got to get deeper in the game somehow than what I did. Too many pitches, too many foul balls, too many deep counts. Just kept giving people any opportunity to get back in the count. And with a good team like that, you cant do that.
Facing six batters in the first inning, Lester allowed the first three to reach base, with one scoring, before he could record an out.
Derek Jeter singled to right field, Curtis Granderson singled to center, and Mark Teixeira doubled to left, scoring Jeter. After Alex Rodriguez popped out, Robinson Cano walked and Nick Swisher grounded into a fielder's choice to third base, with Granderson scoring.
Down by two after the top of the first, the Sox offense fought to stay in contention. But each time, Lester allowed the Yankees to pull ahead. Trailing 3-2 after four, Lester allowed the first two New York batters to reach in the fifth Mark Teixeira on a single and Alex Rodriguez on a triple, scoring Teixeira. Andruw Jones' one-out single two batters later scored Rodriguez, knocking Lester from the game. But the deficit was too much for the Sox offense to overcome.
I thought he had great stuff, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He was throwing a cutter to both sides of the plate early in the count, late in the count, breaking ball, changeup. They got the runs early but he made some good pitches. Ball just kept finding a hole. You cant really explain it and you cant really talk about anything. I thought he made some really good pitches tonight.
The Sox are 11-7 in Lesters starts this season. He knows he has to give the Sox a better chance of winning games in the second half if the team is to have any postseason hopes.
Its important, Lester said. Its a horseexpletive first half. I can only speak for myself. Uncharted water for me. Just got to keep grinding it out. Cant give up. I just got to keep working. That's all I can control, is showing up every day, working hard and things are going to turn around.
Perhaps the All-Star break is coming at the right time.