Victories have been hard to come by for Jon Lester this season, with just one win in his first seven starts.
There was little suspense Monday night, when the Red Sox staked him to a 2-0 lead in the first inning and the lefty cruised to a complete-game victory in a 6-1 defeat of the Seattle Mariners.
The was the fourth in a row for the Red Sox, all coming at home, where they had previously lost 11 of their first 15 games this season.
Lester became the first Red Sox pitcher to toss a nine-inning complete game this season. He had pitched an eight-inning complete game on the road in Toronto in the second week of the season in a losing effort.
He retired the first 11 hitters he faced before allowing a two-out infield single to Ichiro Suzuki in the fourth.
The only run came on an infield groundout in the ninth, depriving him of a shutout. He finished with 119 pitches.
Back-to-back doubles in the first by David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez provided Lester with all the backing he would need.
Daniel Nava contributed with a two-run homer in the fourth for his first homer in almost two years. After homering in his first major league at-bat on June 10, 2010, Nava had 171 at-bats without another until Monday night.
A solo homer by Kelly Shoppach two batters after Nava's blast and a bases-loaded sacrifice fly from Marlon Byrd in the eighth closed out the scoring.
The Red Sox signed Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract bn August 2014. Over parts of three seasons, the 29-year-old has a .679 OPS across 337 plate appearances in the majors and spent the vast majority of the 2016 season at Triple-A Pawtucket.
Castillo had a chance to start things off on the right foot in 2017, but that ship has already sailed. On Thursday against Northeastern at JetBlue Park, Castillo didn’t run out a routine ground ball. He claims he lost track of the outs. Manager John Farrell isn’t happy about the situation. Via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald:
“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”
Everyone always makes far too big a deal about running out grounders. It’s a real nit to pick when it’s February 23 and your team just finished playing an exhibition game that is even more meaningless than the other exhibition games that will be played in the coming month.
That being said, Castillo has to prove himself to merit inclusion on the 25-man roster and that means dotting all his i’s and crossing all his t’s. Even if he went hitless all spring, Castillo could have at least said he couldn’t have done anything else better. But on day one, he already gave his team a reason to count him out.