Boston Red Sox

Notes: Lester struggles; Gonzalez homers twice

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Notes: Lester struggles; Gonzalez homers twice

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

TORONTO --- Jon Lester was long gone by the time Tuesday's extra-inning game was decided in favor of the Toronto Blue Jays. Still, he blamed himself for the Red Sox' 7-6, 10-inning loss.

Lester lasted just 5 13 innings, giving up five runs on seven hits. Command -- or lack thereof -- was an issue right from the start with three walks in the first inning, including one with the bases loaded to force in a run.

"All in all, it wasn't very good,'' concluded Lester. "The bullpen needed a break and I didn't do a very good job getting deep in the game.''

Lester was unhappy with some of the balls-and-strikes calls by home plate umpire Paul Emmel, but took responsibility for what unfolded.

"The interpretation is the guy behind the plate,'' said Lester, "and I have to do a better job controlling my emotions and not worrying about that and worrying about the next pitch. I didn't do a very good job with that and I let it get to me. Because of that, the inning went longer than it should.''

Lester walked a season-high five and allowed two homers, the first time he'd allowed multiple homers in a game since Opening Day.

"Today I just didn't have it,'' he said. "I didn't have good command of, really, anything. There was no pitch that I could go to that got me back in the count or got me to pitch to contact. You have these starts and I have to do a better job minimizing the damage and I didn't do that tonight.''

The Red Sox couldn't find a way to win, but that was hardly the fault of Adrian Gonzalez.

In the fifth, his opposite-field two-run homer put the Red Sox ahead for the first time, 4-3. Then, in the ninth, with the Sox trailing by a run, Gonzalez hit another one -- this one solo -- to tie the game at 6-6 and force extra innings.

After going 23 games without a homer, Gonzalez has now hit five homers in the last eight games.

"We're seeing what everyone has been talking about,'' said Terry Francona. "He leverages the ball to left field and looks like a right-hand hitter. It's unbelievable how that ball backspins. It's going to be fun to watch.''

For his part, Gonzalez was unimpressed with his individual display of power.

"I could care less -- Id rather go 0-for-5 and win,'' he said. "So it doesnt matter what I do if we lost. Its not about me.''

Saying the Red Sox wanted "to kill a bunch of birds with one stone,'' Terry Francona announced a rearranged rotation for the weekend series with the Yankees in New York.

The Sox will pitch Clay Buchholz Friday, Josh Beckett Saturday and Lester Sunday.

That means Daisuke Matsuzaka, who would have been scheduled to pitch Saturday, will be skipped and pushed back to Monday, giving him two extra days rest.

"We're giving Daisuke an extra couple of days,'' said Francona, "because we're trying to spread out a couple of guys and also line it up for how it seems to make sense.''

Among the factors that went into the decision:

-- The current setup matches the Red Sox' three best starters against the Yankees for the weekend series. In particular, Lackey (7.16) has been inconsistent, having given up six or more runs in half of his six starts to date and now won't have to face the Yanks.

"It sets us for the week the way we want it to be,'' said Francona.

-- Matsuzaka gets some extra rest two weeks after one of his starts was cut short because of fears that he had an elbow injury.

Matsuzaka later checked out fine through testing, but at the very least, the Sox were alarmed by the mysterious drop in velocity in that start.

He made his first major league relief appearance in the team's marathon 13-inning loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and had his start pushed back two days in response to that relief outing.

-- Finally, separating Matsuzaka and Beckett in the rotation makes it easier for catcher Jason Varitek, who regularly catches both pitchers. At 39, Varitek sometimes struggles to catch back-to-back games.

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

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

BALTIMORE — Baseball records are so precise. When to pursue them, when to value them even if minor risk is involved, is not nearly as clear cut.

The Red Sox, Chris Sale and John Farrell have stumbled upon that grey area, and it will continue to play out in the final two weeks of the regular season.

Sale reached a tremendous milestone on Wednesday night, becoming the 14th different pitcher in major league history to reach 300 strikeouts in a single season. No one else has done it in the American League this century. Clayton Kershaw was the last to get there in the National League two years ago.

“It was really fun,” Sale said of having his family on hand. “My wife, both my boys are here, my mother-in-law. Being able to run out and get a big hug from him and my wife and everybody — it was special having them here for something like this. … I’ll spend a little time with them before we head to Cincinnati.”

Now, there’s another mark ahead of Sale: Pedro Martinez’s single-season club record of 313. And the pursuit of that record is going to highlight the discussion of what matters even more.

The tug-of-war between absolute pragmatism and personal achievement was on display Wednesday, when Farrell gave ground to the latter. 

The manager was prepared for the questions after a celebratory 9-0 win over the Orioles. His pitchers threw 26 straight scoreless innings to finish off a three-game sweep of the Orioles, and the Sox had the game well in hand the whole night.

With seven innings and 99 pitches thrown and 299 strikeouts in the books, Sale went back out for the eighth inning.

If you watched it, if you saw Sale drop a 2-2 front-door slider to a hapless Ryan Flaherty for the final strikeout Sale needed and his last pitch of the night, you surely enjoyed it. Records may not be championships, but they have their own appeal in sports that’s undeniable. 

But Sale could have recorded strikeout No. 300 next time out. Surely, he would have. He needed all 111 pitches to do so Wednesday.

In this case, the difference between 299 and 300 wound up being just 12 pitches. 

It’s doubtful those 12 pitches will ruin Sale’s postseason chances, particularly considering he was throwing hard all game, touching 99 mph. 

Nonetheless, the Sox hope to play for another month, and they've been working to get Sale extra rest. So, why risk fatigue, or worse, injury?

“The two overriding factors for me,” Farrell explained, “were the pitch counts and the innings in which he was in control of throughout. Gets an extra day [for five days of rest] this next time through the rotation. All those things were brought into play in the thinking of bringing him back out.

“We know what the final out of tonight represented, him getting the 300 strikeouts. Was aware of that, and you know what, felt like he was in complete command of this game and the ability to go out and give that opportunity, he recorded it.”

If Sale makes his final two starts of the year, he’ll break Martinez's record of 313. At least, Sale should. But he might not make his projected final start, in Game No. 162, so that he’s set up for Game 1 in the Division Series.

(So, if he could do reach 314 Ks in his next start, he’d make this discussion disappear — but 14 Ks in one outing is not easy.)

When should exceptions be made to let someone get to a record? Where do you draw the line? 

Would it be reasonable to get Sale an inning or two against the Astros in Game 162 if he was a few strikeouts away, even though he may face the Astros in the Division Series?

Letting the Astros get extra looks against Sale is a different matter than Sale throwing 12 extra pitches. But neither is really a guarantee of doom. They're small risks, of varying size.

Consider that if Sale is on, he should rough up the Astros no matter what.

What's 12 pitches Wednesday for a guy who leads the majors in average pitches thrown per game? Not enough to keep Farrell from letting Sale have a go at one milestone.

Will the Sox work to put Sale in position for the next?

Records don’t usually fall into such a grey area. Outside of the steroid era, anyway.

Sale gets strikeout No. 300 as Red Sox shut out O's, 9-0

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Sale gets strikeout No. 300 as Red Sox shut out O's, 9-0

BALTIMORE - Chris Sale struck out 13 to become the first AL pitcher in 18 years to reach the 300 mark, and the Boston Red Sox moved to the brink of clinching a playoff berth by beating the Baltimore Orioles 9-0 on Wednesday night.

Sale (17-7) reached the milestone on his last pitch, a called third strike against Ryan Flaherty to end the eighth inning. The last AL pitcher to fan 300 batters in a season was Boston's Pedro Martinez in 1999, when he set a club record with 313.

Mookie Betts and Deven Marrero homered for the Red Sox, who reduced their magic number for reaching the postseason to one. If the Angels lost to Cleveland later Wednesday night, Boston would be assured no worse than a wild-card spot in the AL playoffs.

The Red Sox, of course, would prefer to enter as AL East champions. They hold a three-game lead over the second-place Yankees with 10 games left.

After winning two straight 11-inning games over the skidding Orioles, Boston jumped to a 6-0 lead in the fifth and coasted to its 11th win in 14 games.