Lester searching for answers

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Lester searching for answers

BOSTON -- Jon Lester said earlier this season he was searching. Searching for what has been lacking, searching for a put-away pitch, searching for ways to get out of jams, searching for answers.

It was evident he was still on his hunt Tuesday night, as the Red Sox fell to the White Sox, 7-5, at Fenway Park. Lesters record fell to 5-7, as his ERA climbed from 4.49 to 4.80.

Its been a frustrating year, frustrating night, Lester said. Just keeps adding on. Im getting tired of it. try to make adjustments, try to do the things I need to do, and just not getting results.

Lester was working on extra rest, at his request, manager Bobby Valentine said. He last pitched July 8, the day before the All-Star break. Perhaps that was the reason?

Another loss. It doesnt matter if you rest or not, he said. A loss is a loss. It stinks.

I felt fine. Felt like any other start. Obviously its nice to have a break but just got to do a better job executing pitches. Just not doing it now.

He needed 91 pitches (57 strikes) to get through just four innings, giving up six runs on seven hits and three walks with four strikeouts. Lester, though, insisted he was not searching.

No. I feel fine mechanically, feel fine with the process, he said. When the balls leaving my hand Im not in the part of the zone that I need to be. Im up a little bit. Dont know what it is. Just got to keep throwing the ball. It'll turn.

Lester gave up two runs on 27 pitches in the first inning, facing six batters, and putting himself in a hole right away. While the Sox offense came back with two in the home half of the first, Lester gave up another run in the second. He has allowed at least one run in the first inning of each of his last four starts, the longest stretch of his career, and a combined six runs in those first innings.

It was a frustrating night for Jon, Valentine said. After he gave up the two in the first and we came back I thought hed be able to settle down and get us a victory. His control just wasnt there. I dont know if it was the long layoff or what. Walks are really uncommon for him.

The big blow against Lester came in the fourth inning. With two outs and two on, and the Red Sox trailing by a run, Kevin Youkilis launched a three-run blast into the Monster seats to put the White Sox up, 6-2. It was Youkilis 18th RBI in 18 games since being traded to the White Sox on June 24.

Lester fell behind, 3-and-0, to Youkilis before working back to 3-and-2. Then he threw a 93-mph fastball.

Three-two fastball. Youks a good hitter. Weve all seen him for a long time do what he did. Just bad location, bad spot, bad time--all the above, Lester said.

But with the left-handed Adam Dunn on deck, Lester had the option of issuing an intentional walk to Youkilis.

Obviously, you think about it, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. You got Dunn on deck. Lefty-lefty matchups a good matchup. But at that point we came back to a 3-2 count. I dont second guess any kind of a fastball from Jonny. So, if it goes the other way, no ones questioning anything.

This time it went Youkilis way. Lester then struck out Dunn, looking.

Lesters four innings matched his second-shortest outing of the season, May 25 against the Rays, behind only his April 17 outing against the Rangers, when he lasted just two innings. He has given up six or more runs three times, all in his shortest outings. It is most such outings in his career. His previous high was two such outings in 2010.

In his last outing, July 8 against the Yankees, he needed 101 pitches to get through just 4 13 innings. in his last two starts combined he has gone just 8 13 innings, giving up 11 runs, 10 earned runs for a 10.80 ERA.

Valentine, like Lester, is at a loss to explain the left-handers lackluster performances this season.

Really, if we knew, wed be working on correcting it, Valentine said. Hes working as hard as anyone, thinking about things as much as anyone, maybe thinking too much. Who knows? Hes throwing with good velocity. His curveballs pretty good, his changeups OK. Just that one little thing doesnt seem to go right, you know.

The White Sox, in particular, have been able to give Lester fits. In nine career starts against them, Lester has a record of 4-4 with 5.21 ERA, his highest career ERA against any American League team. In two career starts at Fenway, he is 0-2 with an 8.82 ERA.

He has also struggled at home this season. He is 2-5 with a 6.29 ERA in 11 starts at Fenway; 3-2 with a 3.04 ERA in eight road starts. He is scheduled to make his next start Sunday, in the homestand finale against the Blue Jays.

In the meantime, hell continue searching.

I dont think theres anything else I can work on, he said. Ive worked on everything. Just come game time I've got to throw the ball better, plain and simple. Its frustrating showing up every day and busting my butt and going out there and busting my butt when I pitch and just not pitching well. Im letting my team down. Guys did a great job in that first inning picking me up and I didnt pick them right back up. I got to get them right back in the dugout and I didn't do it. I havent been doing it all year. So its got to change.

Robinson Cano, Guillermo Heredia homer in Mariners' 5-0 win over Red Sox

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Robinson Cano, Guillermo Heredia homer in Mariners' 5-0 win over Red Sox

BOSTON (AP)  Christian Bergman rebounded from a miserable start with seven shutout innings and the Seattle Mariners halted Boston's season-high six-game winning streak with a 5-0 victory over the Red Sox on Sunday.

Robinson Cano hit a two-run homer and Guillermo Heredia a solo shot for the Mariners, who averted a three-game sweep with just their second win in nine games. Seattle was shut out the first two games.

Bergman (2-2) allowed four hits, walked two and struck out two. He got a lot of help from his infielders when they turned a double play in each of the first four innings.

Three relievers completed the combined five-hitter, with closer Edwin Diaz getting the final three outs despite two errors by infielders.

Bergman was tagged for 14 hits and 10 runs over four innings in a loss his previous start.

Rick Porcello (3-6) gave up 11 hits, but only two runs in 6 1/3 innings.

Seattle finished one off its club record for most double plays turned in a game.

After being shut out for the first 21 innings of the series, the Mariners moved ahead 1-0 in the fourth when Kyle Seager raced home from third after Porcello bounced a pitch that went over catcher Sandy Leon's right shoulder and onto the screen. Seager had doubled leading off and advanced on Danny Valencia's single.

Heredia homered over the Green Monster in the eighth and Cano sent his into the center-field bleachers an inning later.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, had another bullpen session Sunday because he wasn't happy with one a day earlier.

Red Sox: Manager John Farrell said 3B Pablo Sandoval, out since late April with a sprained right knee, will stay on his rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket to get his "timing going" with more at-bats.

ROSTER MOVES

Seattle sent Saturday's losing pitcher, RHP Rob Whalen, to Triple-A Tacoma and brought up RHP Ryne Harper from the same club.

The Red Sox also made moves with pitchers, sending Saturday's winner, lefty Brian Johnson, to Triple-A Pawtucket and promoting RHP Blaine Boyer for a day. Boyer will go back down Monday when ace David Price is activated.

Boyer made his Red Sox debut, retiring the only two batters he faced.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Sam Gaviglio (0-1, 1.38 ERA) is set to make his third major-league start when they open a two-game series Monday at Colorado. RHP Tyler Chatwood (4-6, 4.50) is scheduled for the Rockies.

Red Sox: LHP Price makes his season debut Monday in Chicago against the White Sox after being sidelined since early spring training with a strained left elbow.

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More AP baseball coverage:https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Brian Johnson admits he almost retired one year ago due to anxiety

Brian Johnson admits he almost retired one year ago due to anxiety

Brian Johnson almost called it a career at age 25 -- just one year before he went on to throw a complete game shutout at Fenway Park.

He finished Saturday's 6-0 win over the Mariners with eight strikeouts and five hits allowed. To get on the mound at Fenway, he had to overcome a serious bout with anxiety and depression. Things came to a head roughly a year ago.

"At that point in time, I was ready to hang 'em up," Johnson told Mike Giardi and Rob Bradford on WEEI radio Sunday. "I wasn't happy, wasn't sleeping through the night, woke up in cold sweats. I just wasn't happy."

But when things got most challenging, Johnson asked for help, which made all the difference, he explained. He broke down on the phone with his father, and discussed all of the issues he'd been struggling with. Then he spoke on the phone with Red Sox mental skills coach Laz Gutierrez, who helped him game plan to fight against his anxiety and depression. Baseball was one of Johnson's problems, and he was considering cutting it out of his life.

"Yes, there were thoughts in my head where I was like, 'What else would I do with my life?'" Johnson said. "I don't think it was baseball. I mean, yes, I would be lying if I didn't say it was that. I think it was a lot of things. Where I was at in my life, I was only a baseball player, and people only saw me as a baseball player. I was just letting everything build up. I think it stemmed all from when I hurt my elbow. I didn't have any feeling in my hand."

He began to worry about whether the feeling in his hand would disappear during his starts. He'd knock his funny bone and the feeling would be gone. That was only one manifestation of his anxieties.

"I just felt like there microscope on me 24/7," he said, "and that's kind of what let's your mind play tricks on you.'

He added: "If I didn't say anything, I don't think there's any chance I'd be here playing baseball. And it is taboo. I always thought -- the reason it took me so long was because, if I say something, they're never going to trust me again. 'How is he able to perform if he's having anxiety and depression problems.' . . . And lo and behold, I think I have more trust now that I said something."

Johnson just kept getting back on the field by throwing one inning at a time until he started having fun again. Fast forward to Sunday, Johnson has two starts for the Sox for a 2.57 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP and 14 strikeouts in 14 innings. He has also posted a 2.82 ERA in seven starts and 44.2 innings pitched in the minors.

But some unfortunate news followed his moment of triumph against the Mariners on Saturday. Johnson is heading back down to Pawtucket. The Sox optioned him with David Price rejoining the rotation.

"I would have loved to stay," Johnson said. "But I'm happy to do what they want me to . . . It stinks I'm getting sent down and optioned. But like I told John (Farrell) and like I told Dave (Dombrowski), 'I'm just going to keep working hard. Whenever you guys need me, I'm ready.'

Johnson said he wasn't riding a high of confidence after his excellent outing. He's keeping a level-head, and approaching the game the same way he did before his complete game. But he did admit he had a particularly special moment Saturday. After the game, his dad congratulated Johnson with a hug on the field at Fenway.

Johnson said: "That was the moment I was probably most grateful for everything."