Notes: Dependable Lester dominant again

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Notes: Dependable Lester dominant again

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
TORONTO -- Jon Lester has now won his last four decisions, but that doesn't begin to illustrate how well he's pitching of late.

Lester, who tossed seven shutout innings in the Red Sox' 14-0 blanking of the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday night, improved to 15-6 this season.

The lefty has allowed one or no runs over each of his last five outings, the longest such streak for a Red Sox lefty since Lefty Grove accomplished the feat in 1935.

"Every night, we're just going with what's (working) good," said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "When you have four pitches you can use, it's nice to be able to mix it up and not stay with the same stuff every time."

Of course, it helps when your team scores four runs in the top of the first, before you even take the mound.

"It definitely helps," said Lester, who lowered his ERA to 2.93. "It calms your nerves and makes you feel more comfortable out there. It never hurts. The more runs we score, the pressure of having to make perfect pitches is off your shoulders. You just go out and just try to execute your game plan."

Lester has won at least 15 games in each of his last four seasons, an accomplishment in itself, but said the number he takes the most pride in is throwing 200 innings.

Thanks to a left lat strain which sidelined him for a stretch in July, it's unlikely that Lester will reach that milestone this season. He's at 172 innings with no more than four starts remaining.

"On a club like this, wins will take care of themselves," he said. "I've been fortunate to be on the good side a lot more than the bad side. But as far as numbers or goals, my only goal as a pitcher is to get to 200 innings."

With three weeks remaining in the season, Lester said he feels "fresher than most. Right now, I feel good. I'm trying to get on a roll and see where it takes us."

Marco Scutaro, who has hit ninth for much of the season, was a little surprised to see himself listed sixth on the Red Sox lineup card Tuesday.

Asked what he was thinking when he saw that, he joked: "Are we trying today?"

Scutaro couldn't remember hitting sixth before, but was told that it had happened twice before.

But Terry Francona must have known something. Scutaro had four hits (including three doubles) and four RBI, each tying career highs, as the Red Sox rolled to an easy victory.

"It's nice to have a day like this," said Scutaro.

Scutaro missed time earlier in the season with an oblique strain, and in the process, lost the starting shortstop job to Jed Lowrie.

But when Lowrie himself went down with a shoulder injury, Scutaro responded. He's now hitting .282 and has hit safely in 17 of his last 20 games.

He's hitting .337 (34-for-101) in his last 27 games with at least one plate appearance.

"I feel much better than in the beginning of the season," said Scutaro. "This game's timing and rhythm. When your timing's good, you see the ball better, you can wait for pitches and stay away from bad pitches, too. That's pretty much the difference, I think."

While the Red Sox await further word on the status of Josh Beckett (ankle) and skip a start with Erik Bedard (knee), Clay Buchholz continues to throw on the side with an eye toward contributing in the postseason.

Tuesday afternoon Buchholz threw from a distance of about 90 feet.

"I threw about 25 warmup pitches from 60-75 feet," said Buchholz, "then 25 more at 90 feet. No problem. The effort level was a little bit higher today, just to test it out. Everything was good."

In terms of intensity, he estimated that his effort Tuesday was at about "65-70 percent".

Buchholz will throw from a distance of 105 feet Wednesday, then take a day off before stretching out to 120 feet. After two days at 120 feet, he'll throw on flat ground using both a windup and stretch delivery, then be ready to get up on a mound.

"I haven't felt any pain throwing for a while now," said Buchholz optimistically. "It's definitely a good thing. We're still moving forward and there haven't been any setbacks."

The big test will be putting spikes on and throwing off a mound. In July, that's when Buchholz encountered roadblocks, feeling enough discomfort in his back that was ordered to shut down all throwing for about a month.

"I'm anxious to get to that point and see how everything goes," he said. "If everything goes right, while we're at home starting Monday, I'll be able to see how it feels off the mound."

The big question -- apart from how Buchholz feels physically -- is whether there's enough time for him to build up arm strength and be ready for the postseason. The end of the regular season is just over three weeks away.

"That's one thing the medical and training staff has never been able to tell me, is . . . a timetable,'' he said. "It's all on feel. If I was to go out and throw and it didn't feel right, we'd probably take a step back. There's definitely no timeline.

"But if everything goes right and I'm able to not have any setbacks and get off a mound and start working my way back up, I'm not sure the end of the season is going to be the right number. But if we do what we want to do -- get to the postseason and play well, that's what I'm really hoping for."

Buchholz wasn't ready to count himself out for the start of the Division Series, which is 3 12 weeks away.

"It just depends on how my body reacts," he said. "I feel strong. I've been running and doing my shoulder program. But being in shape and being in pitching shape are two different things. I've got to get back to the point and the only way I can get to that point is get off the mound and throw.

"It's going to take a little time to do that, but if that goes well, I think everything will be fine."

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.

Posey stays out of the fray during Strickland-Harper brawl

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Posey stays out of the fray during Strickland-Harper brawl

SAN FRANCISCO  — As an irate Bryce Harper charged toward the mound, Buster Posey just stood and watched from behind home plate.

And when the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants cleared their benches Monday and punches flew both ways, the All-Star catcher did his best to remain just outside the fray.

Not where some expected to find the Giants team leader with his pitcher, Hunter Strickland, exchanging head shots with Harper.

“Posey did NOTHING to stop Harper from getting to his pitcher,” former major league pitcher Dontrelle Willis wrote on Twitter. “I’ve never seen that before in my life.”

Posey declined to enter the fracas, instead remaining around its edges and watching as the players scuffled in “a pretty good pile,” as Giants manager Bruce Bochy called it.

Posey dealt with a concussion in April after being struck in the head by a pitch, but did not say he held back because of concerns related to that. He did say he was wary about the risk of injury.

“There were some big guys tumbling around out there,” Posey said. “You see Mike Morse and Jeff Samardzija are about as big as they come and he was getting knocked around like a pinball. So it was a little dangerous to get in there.”

Still, social media was abuzz at the sight of Posey not sticking up for his teammate.

“Strickland must have told @BusterPosey he was hitting him and let him come cause he didn’t even give a soft jog,” Willis wrote.

“Says all you need to know that Buster Posey didn’t bother to hold back Harper,” tweeted Fox broadcaster Kevin Burkhardt . “Let him go get his pitcher.”

Also absent from the fight: hard-nosed Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. As his teammates flew over the dugout railing, Bumgarner stayed put, perhaps because the left-hander is still recovering after injuring his pitching shoulder and ribs in a dirt biking accident in April.

 

Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

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Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.