Valentine: Lester had 'best stuff of the year'

776676.jpg

Valentine: Lester had 'best stuff of the year'

BOSTON It appeared Jon Lester would be in for a rough outing. He needed 27 pitches (17 strikes) facing six batters in the first inning.But, although the Tigers got three hits, they got just one run off the Red Sox left-hander in the inning, leaving two runners on base.Detroit added two more in the third when Quentin Berry led off with a triple and scored on Danny Worths sacrifice fly. Miguel Cabrera, the next batter, doubled and went to third on a wild pitch, scoring on Prince Fielders groundout to third when Will Middlebrooks failed to check him back to the base.After that, though, Lester settled down, retiring 10 of the next 12 batters he faced, allowing just a lead-off single to Brennan Boesch in the fourth and a two-out double to Cabrera (who is 8-for-14 in his career against Lester) in the fifth.Lester went 6 23 innings, giving up four runs on 10 hits with no walks, four strikeouts, and a wild pitch. He threw 120 pitches, 83 for strikes. His ERA went up a tick, from 4.72 to 4.79.The 10 hits were a season high, and the most hes given up since allowing 12 to the White Sox on May 20, 2011. The 120 pitches were his second highest total of the season, after 122 in seven innings to the White Sox in Chicago.Lester was not involved in the decision, and still has yet to beat the Tigers, the only American League club he has not beaten in his career.Still, manager Bobby Valentine thought it was some of Lesters best stuff this season.His curveball was darting. His cutter had the hitters jumping back. His two-seamer was electric. I thought, Valentine said. Its all from the side. But catcher Kelly Shoppach thought it was really good stuff, too. Things didnt go his way. Those three runs, Id say they were a little tainted. He did what he had to do to bow his neck, as they used to say, and put up the zeros. He did a great job.Lesters stuff was so good, it even fooled Valentine. Lester said he really didnt use his cutter that much in the game. Other than that, he agreed with his managers assessment.Lester did not allow a walk, the second time hes accomplished that this season, along with his complete-game win over the Mariners on May 14. Prior to that, he had gone 46 straight starts since the last time he did not issue a walk, on Aug. 14. 2010, at Texas.Felt like I did, Lester said of having his best stuff of the season. It was getting frustrating to have good stuff and get whacked around a little bit. But that being said, more importantly, try to go deep in the game. Guys gave me a chance to win, which is all you can ask for. Bullpen did a great job. Guys swung the bats great. We had some, had a hard time figuring them out early on but the second and third time through we put some good at-bats together and obviously scored some runs. It was big, big team win for us. Thats a big game for us right there.Lester gave up a run in the first and two more in the third, to spot the Tigers a 3-0 lead. After giving up a double to Miguel Cabrera (who is now 8-for-14 in his career against Lester) in the third, the lefty retired 11 of the next 13 batters he faced, except for a Brennan Boesch single leading off the fourth, and another Cabrera with two outs in the fifth.Lester said it had nothing to do with him making adjustments.They just werent hitting it, he said. I just, no adjustments, stuff didnt change, mix didnt change. I think early on they ambushed me a little bit. But, I dont know. Im at a loss for words for trying to figure it out. Like I said, its frustrating for me because when I have stuff like that, it should play a little bit different but theyre a good hitting team, too. So I got to keep making pitches and keep grinding it out, keep figuring it out every day, just keep throwing it.After Gerald Lairds double in the seventh with one out the second hard-hit ball of the inning, but Alex Avila was erased at second on a tremendous throw by left fielder Daniel Nava to second baseman Nick Punto Valentine visited the mound, but left Lester in.He was at his pitch limit, obviously, Valentine said. Two line drives off the center field wall and I just asked him to reach down and get one more out for us. And he said he could do it.Lester did as asked. He struck out Quentin Berry, looking at a 94-mph fastball, then gave way to Matt Albers, who gave up two consecutive singles, including an RBI single to right to Cabrera, tying the game, erasing Lesters win and quality start, and an intentional walk to Fielder before getting Delmon Young to ground out to end the inning.Although Lester was not involved in the decision, the Sox and Albers got the win.

Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

red_sox_brian_johnson_2_052617.jpg

Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

BOSTON - Brian Johnson had quite a turnaround in his second time on Fenway Park's mound.

Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

The 26-year-old left-hander became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

"The last time I walked off the mound here was 2012 and I made two pitches," Johnson said. "Today I went nine innings. Today was pretty cool."

Johnson left Triple-A for a little over a month last season to get treatment for an anxiety issue.

"Obviously with some stuff that I've been gone through in my career, it's an awesome feeling" he said.

But despite the stellar outing, Johnson was optioned back to Triple-A after the game.

"That's the reality of the game," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We had a chance to congratulate him and yet option him back to Pawtucket, with David Price coming here Monday."

Brought up from the minors for the start, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. His only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

"Their guy threw the ball over the plate. He threw strikes," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I won't take anything away from what he did, but we're not swinging the bat very well."

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

red_sox_brian_johnson_052617.jpg

Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

BOSTON - Brian Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway Park, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

Brought up from Triple-A Pawtucket, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. The 26-year-old left-hander's only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: RHPs Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez, both on the DL with right shoulder inflammation, threw bullpen sessions. Hernandez said he "felt really good."... LHP James Paxton (strained forearm) is set to come off the DL and pitch at home Wednesday.

Red Sox: Pedroia was back at second base after getting Friday off to rest his sore left knee and not play on a wet field. He was hit by a pitch on the right forearm his first time up and went 1 for 3. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval, on the DL with a sprained right knee, was expected to play nine innings Saturday night in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket. Manager John Farrell didn't rule out that he could be activated next week.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman (1-2, 6.30 ERA) gave up 10 runs and 14 hits over four innings in a 10-1 loss Tuesday at Washington.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (3-4, 4.35) has gone at least six innings in eight of nine starts.