For once, Lester enjoys April flowers

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For once, Lester enjoys April flowers

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BALTIMORE - In a season which turns four weeks old Friday, very little has gone as planned for the Red Sox.

Already, they've have made two changes in their starting lineup. Two-thirds of the outfield was demoted in the batting order. And their most trustworthy reliever, Daniel Bard, is tied for the team lead in losses.

For that matter, few players have met expectations. There's been Dustin Pedroia, his recent 1-for-20 skid notwithstanding. And Jon Lester.

Even Lester's opening month has not been without its surprises. After breezing through eight innings and allowing two runs on just four hits on Thursday night in a 6-2 win over Baltimore, he casually shrugged off questions about his career-long dominance of the Orioles (14-0, 2.33 in 17 starts).

It was some time before someone mentioned Lester had just completed his final outing in April and made it through the month relatively unscathed. At the mention of this, Lester, ordinarily proudly stoic in the post-game interviews, allowed himself the slightest of smiles.

Until this year, Lester's career April record of 3-6 with an ERA of 4.76 was the lone blemish on Lester's first four seasons. The same pitcher with the second-best winning percentage (.709) since 1900 could not for the life of him put it together in the first month.

Lester could never articulate what had plagued him in the early weeks of each season. For that matter, neither he nor the club ever seemed particularly concerned. Instead, his chronic poor Aprils were tolerated, accepted - like cold weather and built-in off-days - as part of the early season landscape.

Each season, Terry Francona would predict that Lester would eventually find his rhythm and go on one of his patented, dominant runs, stretches that would invariably find Lester with 17 or so wins at the end of the season. And each season Lester would, in time, do just that.

It's just that, this year, Lester found himself much earlier. Though he got a no-decision for his efforts, he threw seven shutout innings in his second start.

Three more quality starts followed. After a rough outing on Opening Day, Lester has since allowed six runs over his last 34 innings for a 1.58 ERA.

Lester was asked the significance of his better-than-usual April.

"It means I don't have an uphill battle," he said. "But with that being said, if I had started out the same way as years past, I wouldn't have lost any sleep over it just because I know that eventually would turn around.

"I wish I had an answer for why in years past it's been that way and why this year's different. But I don't know. I didn't change anything."

Still, the Red Sox won't argue with his success. The explanations and theories don't, in the end, matter much.

So little has been predictable in the first four weeks, the Sox will gladly take Lester's atypically strong start and not ask any questions.

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

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. 

Pedro Martinez talks about one of the greatest games he's ever pitched

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Pedro Martinez talks about one of the greatest games he's ever pitched

CSN baseball analyst Lou Merloni sits down with Pedro Martinez and Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis to discuss one of Pedro's greatest games. 

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On September 10, 1999 at the height of the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry, Pedro Martinez struck out 17 Yankees in a complete game victory, with the only hit he allowed being a home run to Chili Davis. The two men recall that memorable night in the Bronx, and discuss the state of pitching in 2017.