Lester's gem just what the Red Sox ordered

763320.jpg

Lester's gem just what the Red Sox ordered

BOSTON -- It was a night almost exactly like this one: A Monday, cloudy, 57 degrees.

The difference: That one was almost exactly four years ago, May, 19, 2008. Jon Lester pitched a no-hitter against the Royals at Fenway Park.

On this night, Lester had a perfect game with two outs in the fourth inning against the Mariners at Fenway. But Ichiro Suzuki made sure Lester would not be adding to his no-hit resume. Not on this night, anyway.

Suzuki took the fourth pitch of the at-bat from Lester and lined a sharp groundball right back at the left-hander. Lesters glove deflected the ball, with Ichiro reaching safely, erasing the no-hitter and perfect game. In the ninth, Ichiro erased the shutout, scoring the Mariners lone run.

But, the Mariners could do little to prevent Lester from a complete-game win, as he scattered eight Seattle hits, allowing no walks with six strikeouts.The Red Sox beat the Mariners, 6-1, for their fourth straight win, as Lester improved to 2-3 with a 3.71 ERA.

He went out and he looked like he had a mission to accomplish and he accomplished it, said manager Bobby Valentine. He was throwing all of his pitches early in the game, throwing them all for strikes, had a very confident look about himself and just for you younger reporters out there, thats called a complete game--when a starter starts and then he finishes it.

Perhaps, the Mariners would have been ripe for the pickings of a no-hitter. They entered the game batting just .235 as a team, better than only Oaklands .218 in the American League.

His cutter was really good, said Seattle lead-off hitter Dustin Ackley, who went 1-for-4 with a strikeout. That thing looked like his fastball and it just breaks off at the last minute. When you have a pitch like that, youre going to miss barrels a lot.

Lester threw a good ballgame, said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. We hit some balls hard for outs and a couple of our guys had some good at-bats tonight, but nothing with really any damage behind it.

Lester was staked to a two-run lead after the first. In the fourth, a two-run homer from Daniel Nava and solo shot by Kelly Shoppach padded the lead. Marlon Byrds sacrifice fly in the eighth scored Will Middlebrooks for the Sox final run.

Lester kept the Mariners off the scoreboard until the ninth. Suzuki led off with a single, taking third on Justin Smoaks one-out double. Kyle Seagers groundout to Dustin Pedroia scored Suzuki for Seattles only run.

After the game, Lester acknowledged he was thinking about a no-hitter. Then again, he usually does, he said.

I think thats everybodys goal when they go out there, to throw a no-hitter, perfect game, he said. Just ended up giving up a base hit a little later than normal. I just was able to keep the ball down. its obviously in the back of your mind but I dont think it really becomes significant until the sixth, seventh inning. Thats when youre cutting those outs down and you might have a chance.

It was Lesters eighth career complete game, second this season. The other was an eight-inning loss in Toronto on April 11. It was his first nine-inning complete game since June 27, 2010, at San Francisco, and first at Fenway for any Sox pitcher since Lesters nine-inning win over the Twins on May 20, 2010.

Suzuki was the only baserunner Lester allowed through the first five innings. He did not allow a ball out of the infield until Kyle Seagers flyout to right for the second out of the fifth.

He was very aggressive tonight early in counts, said Shoppach. We talked about that before the game, we talked about that his last few starts, how much more efficient he could be.

Lesters gem gives the Sox four consecutive quality starts for the first this season. Josh Beckett could complete the cycle in the two-game series finale Tuesday afternoon.

Were building a foundation, a base ofconfidence, confidence in each other and confidence in the group, Valentine said. Jons a big part of the group and when hes doing well we feel good about ourself. At least I know I do and I know that the hitters do, too.

At 16-19, though, the Sox are still in the cellar of the American League East. If they are to dig their way out, the starting pitchers must lead the way with the proverbial shovels.

I said last week we got to get over the hump, Shoppach said. The starters got to start competing against one another, try to outdo the next guy and momentum will build. Im a firm believer that this game starts with the guys on the mound, which is why I care so much about whats going on out on the mound because I truly believe thats the most important part of the game.

It wasnt a perfect game, or a no-hitter. It wasnt even a shutout. But it was a well-pitched game, and it was a win.

Lester did his part. Now the shovel has been passed. Its up to Josh Beckett to pick it up.

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

BOSTON -- New York’s mistake helped the Red Sox, and they weren’t playing the Yankees.

The Red Sox struck out 20 in a game for the third time in franchise history on Thursday night, and they were able to do so only after MLB’s replay team — based in Manhattan — gave Craig Kimbrel an extra batter to strike out in the ninth inning.

A 6-2 win over the Rangers featured 16 strikeouts for Red Sox pitching heading into the top of the ninth at Fenway Park. Kimbrel came on for a non-save situation because he had five days off previously.

There’s always that outside chance for a four-strikeout inning, and it happened. Even for a four-strikeout inning, however, this was bizarre.

The first batter, left-handed hitting Nomar Mazara, swung and missed at a back-foot breaking ball for strike three — a literal back-foot breaking ball, because it hit him in that foot after he whiffed on the pitch.

On a swing and a miss with a pitch that hits the batter, the ball should be dead. He should not have been able to reach first base. But the umpires didn’t catch the ball hitting Mazara, and instead saw it as a wild pitch. 

Sox manager John Farrell asked for a review and the umpires went for one, but came back empty-handed. The crew was told, erroneously, that the play could not be looked at and the batter was awarded first base.

“It was just a swinging strike three, ball that go away and he obviously reached first base,” crew chief Alfonso Marquez told pool reporter Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. “The only thing that I can tell you, and the only thing I will say is, this was a replay issue. New York will come out with a statement.”

You could say it worked out just fine. Kimbrel went on to strike out the next three, and got the Sox to 20 Ks.

Kimbrel and Tim Wakefield are the only Red Sox pitchers to fan four batters in a single inning. Wakefield did it in the ninth inning on Aug. 10, 1999. 

Kimbrel did it once before as well, when he was with the Braves on Sept. 26, 2012.

No one has struck out five in a major league inning, although Kimbrel has as good a chance as anyone.

“The guy strikes out the world,” Matt Barnes said. “It’s ridiculous. … His fastball is seemingly unhittable. Complement that with the breaking ball he’s got, which comes right off that same plane, when he’s commanding it like he is, the numbers kind of speak for themselves. It’s kind of ridiculous. It’s fun to watch.”

The Sox have struck out 20 in a nine-inning game three times since 1913. Roger Clemens' two 20-strikeout games are the other two.

Red Sox tie strikeout record in completing sweep of Rangers, 6-2

Red Sox tie strikeout record in completing sweep of Rangers, 6-2

BOSTON (AP) There's something about Boston Red Sox pitchers and 20-strikeout games.

There have been six major-league games with that many strikeouts and the Red Sox made the list for the third time, fanning that many Texas Rangers for a 6-2 victory Thursday night and a sweep of the three-game series.

Five Boston pitchers combined on the 20 strikeouts with starter Drew Pomeranz getting 11 in six innings and closer Craig Kimbrel getting four in the ninth when the leadoff batter reached on a wild pitch strike three. Boston's Roger Clemens twice reached 20 strikeouts by himself.

"His stuff is nasty. What he is doing right now I have never seen anything like that," Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes said of Kimbrel.

Kimbrel has retired 53 of the last 56 batters he has faced and right-handed hitters are on an 0-for-41 streak.

Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero hit their first home runs of the season helping Boston to its fourth straight win.

"A lot has been made about our home run totals or lack thereof," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Tonight was the first of what should be many more."

Pomeranz (4-3), who tied his career high with the 11 strikeouts, made it as far as six innings for the third time this season and beat Texas for the first time in nine career outings.

"Felt lost for a couple of starts and wasn't satisfied," said Pomeranz, who gave up four hits and walked one. "Tonight I felt more like last year."

Elvis Andrus homered and Nomar Mazara had two hits and an RBI for Texas, which has lost four of five overall and 15 of 21 on the road.

"The sweep is surprising," Andrus said. "But that's the beauty of baseball, I guess. You cannot take any team for granted. Even when you feel you're playing at your best, stuff like this can happen."

Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland had RBI singles in the first inning as Boston got to Rangers starter Nick Martinez (1-3) early.

Bogaerts hit a two-run homer in the third to put Boston ahead 4-0. Despite finishing with 21 home runs last year, Bogaerts needed 46 games to connect for the first time this season.

"Good to get one over the wall and get it out of the way," Bogaerts said.

Mike Napoli struck out four times while Pete Kozma and Andrus went down three times each. Every Ranger starter struck out at least once.

"Pomeranz was throwing well," Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "Obviously their bullpen came in and threw well also and they played better than we did overall tonight."

Marrero homered in the eighth off Alex Claudio.

Martinez gave up four runs in five innings and is winless in four starts against Boston with a 6.46 ERA.

Andrus cut Boston's lead to 4-1 in the fourth inning with the homer, snapping an 0-for-9 drought.

Moreland tied his career high by driving in at least one run for the sixth straight game and extended his hitting streak to seven games, batting .393 in that stretch.

Boston swept Texas for the first time at Fenway Park since 2008. Since 2009, Texas has the best winning percentage at Fenway Park in the major leagues at .600.

STRIKING SUCCESS

Pomeranz recorded his 500th career strikeout when he whiffed Napoli for the final out of the fourth inning, his eighth of the game.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rangers: 3B Adrian Beltre will play in extended spring training games in Arizona the next three days after being sidelined all season with a calf strain.

Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia was removed from the game after five innings for precautionary reasons due to left knee pain. He is listed as day to day. ... LHP David Price will make his season debut Monday in Chicago against the White Sox despite surrendering six earned runs in 5 2/3 innings over his last two rehab starts. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval is 3 for 13 in four rehab games.

UP NEXT:

Rangers: Will send RHP A.J. Griffin (4-1) in the opener at Toronto.

Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (3-1) looks to win his fourth straight decision when they entertain Seattle on Friday.