Lester's gem just what the Red Sox ordered

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Lester's gem just what the Red Sox ordered

BOSTON -- It was a night almost exactly like this one: A Monday, cloudy, 57 degrees.

The difference: That one was almost exactly four years ago, May, 19, 2008. Jon Lester pitched a no-hitter against the Royals at Fenway Park.

On this night, Lester had a perfect game with two outs in the fourth inning against the Mariners at Fenway. But Ichiro Suzuki made sure Lester would not be adding to his no-hit resume. Not on this night, anyway.

Suzuki took the fourth pitch of the at-bat from Lester and lined a sharp groundball right back at the left-hander. Lesters glove deflected the ball, with Ichiro reaching safely, erasing the no-hitter and perfect game. In the ninth, Ichiro erased the shutout, scoring the Mariners lone run.

But, the Mariners could do little to prevent Lester from a complete-game win, as he scattered eight Seattle hits, allowing no walks with six strikeouts.The Red Sox beat the Mariners, 6-1, for their fourth straight win, as Lester improved to 2-3 with a 3.71 ERA.

He went out and he looked like he had a mission to accomplish and he accomplished it, said manager Bobby Valentine. He was throwing all of his pitches early in the game, throwing them all for strikes, had a very confident look about himself and just for you younger reporters out there, thats called a complete game--when a starter starts and then he finishes it.

Perhaps, the Mariners would have been ripe for the pickings of a no-hitter. They entered the game batting just .235 as a team, better than only Oaklands .218 in the American League.

His cutter was really good, said Seattle lead-off hitter Dustin Ackley, who went 1-for-4 with a strikeout. That thing looked like his fastball and it just breaks off at the last minute. When you have a pitch like that, youre going to miss barrels a lot.

Lester threw a good ballgame, said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. We hit some balls hard for outs and a couple of our guys had some good at-bats tonight, but nothing with really any damage behind it.

Lester was staked to a two-run lead after the first. In the fourth, a two-run homer from Daniel Nava and solo shot by Kelly Shoppach padded the lead. Marlon Byrds sacrifice fly in the eighth scored Will Middlebrooks for the Sox final run.

Lester kept the Mariners off the scoreboard until the ninth. Suzuki led off with a single, taking third on Justin Smoaks one-out double. Kyle Seagers groundout to Dustin Pedroia scored Suzuki for Seattles only run.

After the game, Lester acknowledged he was thinking about a no-hitter. Then again, he usually does, he said.

I think thats everybodys goal when they go out there, to throw a no-hitter, perfect game, he said. Just ended up giving up a base hit a little later than normal. I just was able to keep the ball down. its obviously in the back of your mind but I dont think it really becomes significant until the sixth, seventh inning. Thats when youre cutting those outs down and you might have a chance.

It was Lesters eighth career complete game, second this season. The other was an eight-inning loss in Toronto on April 11. It was his first nine-inning complete game since June 27, 2010, at San Francisco, and first at Fenway for any Sox pitcher since Lesters nine-inning win over the Twins on May 20, 2010.

Suzuki was the only baserunner Lester allowed through the first five innings. He did not allow a ball out of the infield until Kyle Seagers flyout to right for the second out of the fifth.

He was very aggressive tonight early in counts, said Shoppach. We talked about that before the game, we talked about that his last few starts, how much more efficient he could be.

Lesters gem gives the Sox four consecutive quality starts for the first this season. Josh Beckett could complete the cycle in the two-game series finale Tuesday afternoon.

Were building a foundation, a base ofconfidence, confidence in each other and confidence in the group, Valentine said. Jons a big part of the group and when hes doing well we feel good about ourself. At least I know I do and I know that the hitters do, too.

At 16-19, though, the Sox are still in the cellar of the American League East. If they are to dig their way out, the starting pitchers must lead the way with the proverbial shovels.

I said last week we got to get over the hump, Shoppach said. The starters got to start competing against one another, try to outdo the next guy and momentum will build. Im a firm believer that this game starts with the guys on the mound, which is why I care so much about whats going on out on the mound because I truly believe thats the most important part of the game.

It wasnt a perfect game, or a no-hitter. It wasnt even a shutout. But it was a well-pitched game, and it was a win.

Lester did his part. Now the shovel has been passed. Its up to Josh Beckett to pick it up.

Quotes, notes and stars: Porcello has ability to adjust

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Quotes, notes and stars: Porcello has ability to adjust

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 8-0 win over the Yankees:

QUOTES:

"He threw all four pitches tonight for strikes, but most importantly, (he's shown) the ability to make adjustments from pitch-to-pitch. If he gets out of whack or misses with a pitch, he's right back in the strike zone.'' - John Farrell on Rick Porcello.

"You look back at the first month and I think we've gained a lot of trust in each other up and down the lineup. That to me is the strongest attribute right now on this team.'' - Farrell on the Red Sox after one month of play.

"Pretty similar. I'm getting a lot of timely hits, and it's helping the team.'' - Jackie Bradley Jr., asked if this last week is similar to the hot streak he enjoyed last August.

"I'm comfortable. I'm in a good place, mentally and physically. I worked really hard to get where I am now and I'm going to continue to work.'' – Bradley on his hot streak.

"Much better fastball command. I've been able to execute my sinker better and that's allowed me to get ahead of hitters and if I do fall behind, I've been able to come back.'' - Porcello on cutting his walk rate by more than half compared to this point a year ago.

NOTES:

* The shutout at Fenway was the first for the Red Sox against the Yankees since May 14, 2011.

* The eight-run margin was the biggest margin in a Red Sox shutout over the Yankees since Sept. 6, 2003 when they won 11-0 in New York.

* The four triples in April for Jackie Bradley Jr. are the most for a Red Sox hitter in that month since Jose Offerman in 1999.

* In his last nine games against the Yankees, Bradley is 14-for-31 (.452) with nine extra-base hits.

* Rick Porcello's 5-0 start to the season is the best run for a Red Sox starter since Josh Beckett was 7-0 in 2007.

* The Yankees have failed to homer in seven games this season; they're 0-7 in those games.

STARS:

1) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley had three extra-base hits (two triples and a double) for eight total bases, and knocked in three runs.

2) Rick Porcello

The Red Sox starter tossed seven shutout innings and allowed only two baserunners into scoring position while issuing just one walk.

3) Mookie Betts

Betts had a double in the second and a single in the sixth, good for three RBI, a season high for him.

First impressions from Red Sox' 8-0 win over Yankees: Bradley on a tear

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First impressions from Red Sox' 8-0 win over Yankees: Bradley on a tear

BOSTON -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 8-0 win over the Yankees:

* Rick Porcello doesn't seem like a weak link in the rotation now.

Porcello blanked the Yankees for seven innings and is now 5-0 with a 2.76 ERA for the season. For the fourth time in five outings, he pitched into the seventh innings.

The Yankees threatened only once - in the fifth, when they had runners at the corners and two out. But Porcello got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out, stranding two and was never in trouble again.

Porcello's command is improved over a year ago. In his first five starts last year, covering 30 innings, he walked 10. This year, he's pitched 32 2/3 innings and issued just five walks.

* Jackie Bradley is swinging it like he did last August.

Bradley went on an extra-base tear late last summer, rocketing doubles, triples and homers for a stretch of a few weeks that was completely unexpected.

The last week has been like that stretch, with seven extra-base hits in the last seven games. He knocked in the first run of the night with a double to left, then delivered another in the sixth with a triple to the triangle and two more in the seventh with a triple into the right field corner.

In the two games against the Yankees, he's got four extra-base hits, a walk and five RBI.

* David Ortiz has started 20 games this season. He's knocked in 19 runs.

Ortiz added his second homer in as many nights, to go along with a single and walk.

It's doubtful that he's going to keep up his RBI-per-game pace, but when he's locked in the way he is now, he impacts virtually the entire lineup from the cleanup position.

* If you think Pablo Sandoval was bad, maybe you haven't been watching Chase Headley.

The Yankee third baseman was a free agent the same winter that Sandoval was and some argued that he would have been a better fit for the Sox than was Panda.

But 22 games into the 2016 season, Headley has yet to collect a single base hit and has an OPS of .405. He's hitting .153 and has virtually no range to speak of at third base.

* A lot has changed for Junichi Tazawa.

A year ago, Tazawa was overworked in the first half of the season. On Saturday night, he got an inning of work in the ninth in a blowout game because he hadn't pitched since last Sunday -- thanks to strong starting efforts from the rotation over the past two series.