Lester, Sox at a loss as first half of season ends

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Lester, Sox at a loss as first half of season ends

BOSTON Jon Lesters first half ended as fruitlessly for the Red Sox as it began. With a loss.

Sunday night in the first-half finale against the Yankees at Fenway Park, Lester lasted just 4 13 innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on nine hits and two walks with six strikeouts. He took the loss, as the Sox fell to the Yankees, 7-3. Lesters record fell to 5-6 while his ERA rose to 4.49.

Lester set the tone for his outing by following a frustrating trend for Sox starters in the four-game set with the Yankees. In all, Sox starters gave up 14 runs in the first inning of each of the games. Lester gave up two Sunday, digging a hole for himself to work from. He needed 29 pitches (17 strikes) to get through the inning.

"Jon had another uphill battle," Bobby Valentine said. "He was throwing the ball well. You look up and he's at 100 pitches in the fifth inning."

This was the first time Lester had faced the Yankees this season. He has lost his last three starts against New York, after winning his previous five. He is now 2-2 with a 5.11 ERA in 8 career starts against the Yankees at Fenway.

This was the third-shortest outing of Lesters 18 starts this season.

Well, obviously not good, Lester said of his latest outing. Got to get deeper in the game somehow than what I did. Too many pitches, too many foul balls, too many deep counts. Just kept giving people any opportunity to get back in the count. And with a good team like that, you cant do that.

Facing six batters in the first inning, Lester allowed the first three to reach base, with one scoring, before he could record an out.

Derek Jeter singled to right field, Curtis Granderson singled to center, and Mark Teixeira doubled to left, scoring Jeter. After Alex Rodriguez popped out, Robinson Cano walked and Nick Swisher grounded into a fielder's choice to third base, with Granderson scoring.

Down by two after the top of the first, the Sox offense fought to stay in contention. But each time, Lester allowed the Yankees to pull ahead. Trailing 3-2 after four, Lester allowed the first two New York batters to reach in the fifth Mark Teixeira on a single and Alex Rodriguez on a triple, scoring Teixeira. Andruw Jones' one-out single two batters later scored Rodriguez, knocking Lester from the game. But the deficit was too much for the Sox offense to overcome.

I thought he had great stuff, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He was throwing a cutter to both sides of the plate early in the count, late in the count, breaking ball, changeup. They got the runs early but he made some good pitches. Ball just kept finding a hole. You cant really explain it and you cant really talk about anything. I thought he made some really good pitches tonight.

The Sox are 11-7 in Lesters starts this season. He knows he has to give the Sox a better chance of winning games in the second half if the team is to have any postseason hopes.

Its important, Lester said. Its a horseexpletive first half. I can only speak for myself. Uncharted water for me. Just got to keep grinding it out. Cant give up. I just got to keep working. That's all I can control, is showing up every day, working hard and things are going to turn around.

Perhaps the All-Star break is coming at the right time.

Farrell angered after Castillo fails to run out grounder

Farrell angered after Castillo fails to run out grounder

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.

Moreland, Travis homer to lead Red Sox past Northeastern 9-6 in opener

Moreland, Travis homer to lead Red Sox past Northeastern 9-6 in opener

Mitch Moreland and Sam Travis hit three-run homers and left-hander Brian Johnson started and pitched two scoreless innings to help the Red Sox win their spring training opener, 9-6, over Northeastern University on Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla.

Johnson, who made one spot start in his MLB debut with the Red Sox in 2015 but then was derailed by injuries and anxiety issues last season, struck out three and walked one Thursday. He's expected to start the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he went 5-6 with a 4.44 ERA in 15 starts in 2016.

Moreland, the left-handed hitting first baseman signed to a one-year deal after spending his first seven seasons with the Texas Rangers, and Travis, a right-handed hitting first base prospect coming back from knee surgery last season, each hit three-run homers in a six-run third inning.

Pablo Sandoval, attempting to reclaim the third-base job after missing nearly all of last season after surgery on his left shoulder, went 1-for-2 with a double. 

The Red Sox open Grapefruit League play Friday afternoon when they host the New York Mets at JetBlue Park.