Lester haunted by lack of command

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Lester haunted by lack of command

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- @font-face font-family: "Times New Roman";p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; a:link, span.MsoHyperlink color: blue; text-decoration: underline; a:visited, span.MsoHyperlinkFollowed color: purple; text-decoration: underline; table.MsoNormalTable font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; div.Section1 page: Section1; Jon Lester will go back to the drawing board, but he wonthave to re-invent the wheel after Monday nights 7-3 loss to the Chicago WhiteSox at Fenway Park.

Lester allowed a season-high seven earned runs in sufferinghis second loss of the season. And the hot topic after his latest rough outingwas the leftys command.

It was one of those nights where I just battled myself,said Lester. I couldnt get in a rhythm. The ball was up. When I actually didthrow it over the plate, it was up.

Tonight, I really just didnt have a feel for anything. Istunk. Theres no other way to put it.

Lester allowed eight hits and a solo home run, but the mostconcerning numbers were his four walks and two hit batsmen. But even moreconcerning than those command issues was the fact that Lester was getting awayfrom what makes him shine.

According to Terry Francona, Lester was throwing far too many cutters. Its a devastatingpitch, when he uses it at the right time. But his overuse of the cutter hasbeen progressing over time, according to Francona.

Hes gotten into a little bit of a mode, where, his cutteris so good, but hes throwing a lot of them, said Francona. Weve got to gethim back to establishing fastball, changeup, breaking ball, and using thatcutter to put people away.

Its just getting to the point where its been a little bitmore and more. I mean, it is a great pitch, but hes throwing a lot of them.So, well go back to the drawing board a little bit, and have a good side withpitching coach Curt Young.

Ironically enough, it was a flat cutter that ended hisnight, but by no means was Alexei Ramirez bloop double to shallow right fielda frozen rope.

The game was tied at 3-3 in the top of the sixth, and Lesterwalked lefty Juan Pierre to load the bases with two outs. Ramirez then took acutter the other way, and dropped a ball just over the head of Adrian Gonzalezand barely to the left of the right-field line.

That scored two runs and gave the White Sox a 5-3 lead,ending Lesters night. Dan Wheeler then gave up a two-run, bases-clearingsingle to Carlos Quentin that made it a 7-3 game.

As much as were talking about him not commanding tonight,were 3-3, bases loaded, and we get a blooper that lands inside the chalk,said Francona. That was two runs there, and two more when he left.

The ball wasnt hit hard, but we walked a lefty to getthere. If you give the other team enough chances, sometimes those things happen.

And as we learned after the game, if Lester is throwing toomany cutters, thats not a good thing.

Its the only pitch I could throw for strikes, said Lester.I had no command of my fastball. I threw a couple decent changeups, and Ithink I threw one curveball for a strike, just because I got a check swing atit.

It was really the only pitch I could command, so we had touse it.

I think hes maybe going to the cutter because when hesgetting into binds, he knows he can get out of it with it, said Francona. Andtheres been more baserunners than probably normal.

Because the Red Sox have days off on Thursday and nextMonday, Lester won't pitch again until next Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. Inbetween now and then, they will, as Francona mentioned, go back to the drawingboard.

But nobodys panicking.

I dontneed to go out there and try to figure things out," said Lester. "I think it was just one ofthose deals tonight where I got a little ahead of myself at times, working eastto west, instead of north to south.

I dont need to throw an extended bullpen or anything likethat, yet, it will be nice to get an extra day. Weve been going pretty hard atit these past couple of go-arounds.

When hes going good, he will command better, saidFrancona. We get concerned about everything because thats our job. We try tofix it when its not perfect. And so will he. Hes such a perfectionist. Weretalking about him not commanding, but still, if that ball goes foul, he may endup the winning pitcher.

Danny Picard is onTwitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

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Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

BOSTON - Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon hit two-run homers and the Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Friday to cap a night in which David Ortiz's number became the latest retired at Fenway Park.

It was the 250th career home run for Ramirez, a good friend of Ortiz who was also born in the Dominican Republic. Leon finished with three hits and four RBIs.

The homers helped provide a nice cushion for Rick Porcello (4-9), who gave up four runs and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. It was the 13th straight start Porcello has gone at least six innings.

Alex Meyer (3-4) allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the seventh, but cooled off after Porcello left.

Boston got out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts and then getting two more runs off wild pitches by Meyer.

Ramirez gave Porcello a 5-1 lead in the fourth with his two-run shot to right field.

This could serve as a needed confidence boost for Porcello, who had been 0-4 with a 7.92 ERA in his previous five starts, allowing 47 hits and 27 earned runs.

He had command of his pitches early, holding the Angels scoreless until the fourth, when a catching error by Leon at home allowed Albert Pujols to cross the plate.

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

BOSTON —  The Red Sox have become well known for their ceremonies, for their pull-out-all-the-stops approach to pomp. The retirement of David Ortiz’s No. 34 on Friday evening was in one way, then, typical.

A red banner covered up Ortiz’s No. 34 in right field, on the facade of the grandstand, until it was dropped down as Ortiz, his family, Red Sox ownership and others who have been immortalized in Fenway lore looked on. Carl Yazstremski and Jim Rice, Wade Boggs and Pedro Martinez. 

The half-hour long tribute further guaranteed permanence to a baseball icon whose permanence in the city and the sport was never in doubt. But the moments that made Friday actually feel special, rather than expected, were stripped down and quick. 

Dustin Pedroia’s not one to belabor many points, never been the most effusive guy around. (He’d probably do well on a newspaper deadline.) The second baseman spoke right before Ortiz took to the podium behind the mound.

“We want to thank you for not the clutch hits, the 500 home runs, we want to thank you for how you made us feel and it’s love,” Pedroia said, with No. 34 painted into both on-deck circles and cut into the grass in center field. “And you’re not our teammate, you’re not our friend, you’re our family. … Thank you, we love you.”

Those words were enough for Ortiz to have tears in his eyes.

“Little guy made me cry,” Ortiz said, wiping his hands across his face. “I feel so grateful. I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to have the career that I have. But I thank God even more for giving me the family and what I came from, who teach me how to try to do everything the right way. Nothing — not money — nothing is better than socializing with the people that are around you, get familiar with, show them love, every single day. It’s honor to get to see my number …. I remember hitting batting practice on this field, I always was trying to hit those numbers.”

Now that’s a poignant image for a left-handed slugger at Fenway Park.

He did it once, he said — hit the numbers. He wasn’t sure when. Somewhere in 2011-13, he estimated — but he said he hit Bobby Doerr’s No. 1.

“It was a good day to hit during batting practice,” Ortiz remembered afterward in a press conference. “But to be honest with you, I never thought I’d have a chance to hit the ball out there. It’s pretty far. My comment based on those numbers was, like, I started just getting behind the history of this organization. Those guys, those numbers have a lot of good baseball in them. It takes special people to do special things and at the end of the day have their number retired up there, so that happening to me today, it’s a super honor to be up there, hanging with those guys.”

The day was all about his number, ultimately, and his number took inspiration from the late Kirby Puckett. Ortiz’s major league career began with the Twins in 1997. Puckett passed away in 2006, but the Red Sox brought his children to Fenway Park. They did not speak at the podium or throw a ceremonial first pitch, but their presence likely meant more than, say, Jason Varitek’s or Tim Wakefield’s.

“Oh man, that was very emotional,” Ortiz said. “I’m not going to lie to you, like, when I saw them coming toward me, I thought about Kirby. A lot. That was my man, you know. It was super nice to see his kids. Because I remember, when they were little guys, little kids. Once I got to join the Minnesota Twins, Kirby was already working in the front office. So they were, they used to come in and out. I used to get to see them. But their dad was a very special person for me and that’s why you saw me carry the No. 34 when I got here. It was very special to get to see them, to get kind of connected with Kirby somehow someway.”

Ortiz’s place in the row of 11 retired numbers comes in between Boggs’ No. 26 and Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.