Lester lays egg; home struggles continue

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Lester lays egg; home struggles continue

BOSTON With the Red Sox hoping to get above .500 for the first time this season, this was not the kind of outing they needed from their ace.

Jon Lester lasted just four innings, giving up seven runs on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts against the light-hitting Rays, who at .246 as a team are 10th in the American League.

Of the six hits Lester allowed, half were home runs, tied for most home runs hes allowed in a game.(He also gave up three twice last season -- April 1, 2011 at Texas and June 18, 2011, against Milwaukee).

Lester took the loss, dropping his record to 3-4 while his ERA climbed from 3.95 to 4.72, as the Rays beat the Sox, 7-4, in the first of their three-game set at Fenway Park.

I wasnt good, didnt locate, he said. Felt like I had to throw the ball in a keyhole. Just one of those nights. When I was missing I was missing and when I was around the plate I was down the middle. Didnt make an adjustment. They did a good job of working counts, getting in hitters counts, make me pay for my mistakes.

Despite a crisp 1-2-3 first inning to start the game, Lester said he felt like he struggled from the start.

The whole time, he said. I think really the only at-bat in the whole game where I feel like I threw the ball where I wanted to, every pitch, was the first inning against Luke Scott who struck out looking at a 91-mph fastball. Other than that, just was a battle. Like I said, they did a good job of making me work and working for their pitch and not missing it. Just one of those nights, just frustrating. We worked so hard to get back to .500, played good baseball. I come out and have a performance like this. Its just unacceptable. Got to be better. Plain and simple.

Kevin Youkilis RBI single in the bottom of the frame gave him a brief lead. But, Lester gave up three walks in his outing one more than his past three starts combined. Lester has had just one shorter outing this season, April 17 against the Rangers in his third start of the year when he lasted just two innings. Other than that outing and Fridays, he had averaged just over 6 23 innings per start.

The Rays big blow came in the third on Matt Joyces grand slam, after a one-out walk to Carlos Pena and a single by B.J. Upton, and a two-out walk to Ben Zobrist. The grand slam was the second Lester has allowed in his career, along with one by Paul Konerko in the fourth inning on Sept. 30, 2010, in Chicago.

It looked like he had pretty good stuff going in, said manager Bobby Valentine. In the first inning he was looking pretty good. The game got away from him a little there with the walk to Pena and then the grand slam to Joyce obviously. The strike zone started eluding him and a couple left-handers that dont hit left-handers all that well got him.

The Rays added back-to-back home runs in the fourth a two-run shot by No. 9 hitter Elliot Johnson and a solo shot by Carlos Pena, who leads all batters with six home runs off Lester.

The seven runs allowed matched a season high for Lester. He had given up just four home runs in nine starts spanning 57 innings entering the game. He had held opponents to one or no home run in each of his last 20 starts since Aug. 5, 2011.

Even more perplexing are Lesters home-away splits.

In four starts at Fenway this season, spanning 21 innings, Lester has a 7.71 ERA, giving up 18 earned runs. He has allowed an opponents' batting average of .310 (27-for-87). With five home runs, two doubles, and a triple, (10 walks and 14 strikeouts) opponents are slugging .506 off him.

On the road, he has an ERA of 3.15, an opponents' batting average of .233, and slugging percentage of .349.

Most of the damage at home has come in two starts: Friday night and April 17 against the Rangers, when he gave up seven runs on eight hits in two innings.

Bad starts Ive had just come at home, he said. Theyre kind of skewed by two starts. Its just, thats baseball. If I had an answer, itd fix it. Just not going well right now for me here.

Pomeranz gives up three runs in Red Sox loss to Blue Jays

Pomeranz gives up three runs in Red Sox loss to Blue Jays

Starter Drew Pomeranz gives up three runs on five hits in four innings of work in the Red Sox' 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Friday.

Lou Merloni breaks down Pomeranz's start and explains why he should be in the starting rotation to begin the season.

Sox' lack of homegrown starters an understandable problem to Yanks' Cashman

Sox' lack of homegrown starters an understandable problem to Yanks' Cashman

The dearth of homegrown starting pitching for the Red Sox is talked about almost as much as every Tom Brady post on Instagram.

Red Sox fans may take some solace in knowing their team isn’t the only one dealing with this problem.

In an interview with MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman didn’t talk about his team’s pitching problems in context of the Red Sox. But the explanation the longtime Yanks boss offered should sound familiar. 

In the biggest of markets, time to develop properly is scarce.

“Yeah. It's a fact,” Cashman said when asked if criticism of their pitching development was fair. “I think part of the process has been certainly where we draft. Because we've had a lot of success, we've not been allowed to tank and go off the board and therefore get access to some of the high-end stuff that plays out to be impactful. Part of it is we can't get out of our own way because we don't have the patience to let guys finish off their development, because if you possess some unique ability that stands out above everybody else -- whether it was Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, now [Luis] Severino and before that [Bryan] Mitchell and Shane Greene -- we're pulling them up before their development is finished.

“Teams like Tampa Bay, for instance, they're going to wait until they have their four pitches down and their innings limits are all exceeded at the minor-league level; they're very disciplined in that approach as they finish off their starters. For us, if I'm looking at my owner and he says, ‘What's our best team we can take north?’ 

“Well, ‘We could take this guy; he's not necessarily 100 percent finished off, but we can stick him in our 'pen. He can be in the back end of our rotation, because he's better than some of the guys we already have,’ and then you cut corners, so I think that probably plays a role in it.”

Not everything is circumstantial, though -- or a deflection. 

“And sometimes we don't make the right decisions, either, when we're making draft selections and signings and stuff like that,” Cashman continued. “On top of it all, playing in New York is a lot different than playing anywhere else.”

We’ve heard that last part about Boston too, here and there.

Cashman was complimentary of his current Sox counterpart, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, whose team Cashman has compared to the Golden State Warriors.

On his feelings when he first heard the Sox were getting Chris Sale:

“When that trade was consummated, that was the first thing I thought about, which was, 'Wow, look at what they've done,' ” Cashman said. “I know how it's going to play out for them. Listen, Steve Kerr does a great job managing that team -- oh, I mean John Farrell. It's a lot of talent and with talent comes pressure to perform. I think Dave Dombrowski has done everything he possibly can to provide that city with a world championship team. They've got 162 games to show it.”