Lester struggles early, Sox fall 4-2

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Lester struggles early, Sox fall 4-2

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON -- Jon Lester matched his season and career high allowing three home runs to the Brewers, including back-to-back homers on back-to-back pitches to start the game, as the Red Sox lost to the Brewers, 4-2, at Fenway Park Saturday night.

On the third pitch of the game, Rickie Weeks hit his 25th career lead-off home run, into the first row of Monster seats in left. On the next pitch, Corey Hart homered into the bleachers behind the Sox bullpen in center.

The Sox evened the game in the second when Kevin Youkilis lead off with a double and David Ortiz walked. After getting Darnell McDonald to line out to third baseman Casey McGehee and Marco Scutaro looking at strike three, Brewers left-hander Randy Wolf gave up consecutive singles to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, scoring Youkilis, and Mike Cameron, scoring Ortiz.

But Lester could not hold the lead, giving up another lead-off homer, to former Sox George Kottaras, in the third. With two outs in the inning, Lester allowed back-to-back walks to Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, before McGehees single to left, scoring Braun.

Entering the game, the Sox appeared poised for success. In their last 11 games facing left-handed starting pitchers, they were 11-0. But, they could do little with Brewers lefty Randy Wolf, who went seven innings, giving up two runs on nine hits and one walk, with three strikeouts. Wolf improved to 5-4, with a 3.15 ERA.

Lester took the loss, falling to 9-3 (3.70 ERA). He went eight innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits and three walks, with eight strike outs and three home runs. On the first four pitches of the game he matched his home run total (two) over his previous five starts combined.

The only other time Lester had given up back-to-back home runs was May 4, 2009, at Yankee Stadium, when Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira went deep in the fifth inning. Saturday was the first time he has given up two home runs in the first inning.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Randy Wolf
When starter Shaun Marcum couldn't make it through just one inning Friday night, with the bullpen pitching the rest of the way, the Brewers needed Wolf to go deep into this game. He did just that, going seven innings, giving up two runs on nine hits and one walk, with three strikeouts. Wolf improved to 5-4, with a 3.15 ERA. In four career starts at Fenway Park, Wolf is 2-1, with a 2.73 ERA, his second-best career ERA at any ballpark in which has pitched at least three times, behind San Franciscos AT&T Park (2.59 ERA).

Adrian Gonzalez, who has faced Wolf more than any other Sox hitter, went 0-for-4 and is now 6-for-21 in his career against the Brewers lefty.

He mixed his pitches, Gonzalez said. Hes definitely pitching a lot differently, no, not a lot but different than he has in the past years when Ive seen him. Hes throwing cutters now and throwing a lot more changeups. He threw me a changeup and mixing the ball in and out, up and down. He kept us off balance.

HONORABLE MENTION: Rickie Weeks
Weeks set the tone for the aggressive Brewers. He led off the game with his 14th home run of the season on Lesters third pitch. It was Weeks fourth lead-off homer of the season, and 25th of his career. He went 2-for-4, the only Brewers batter with more than one of his teams eight hits.

Weeksbecame a statistical oddity whenAdrian Gonzalezdropped his foul pop and Weeks hit the next pitch for a home run, thus becoming an unearned run as the lead-off hitter of a game. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Weeks is the first batter since theExpos' Warren Cromartieon July 4, 1979, to lead off a game with dropped foul then hitting a home run. Cromartie did so off the Cubs' Bill Caudill afterthird basemanSteve Ontiveros dropped Cromarties foul fly.

THE GOAT: Jon Lester
Although he pitched a quality start, his 10th in 15 outings this season, going eight innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits and three walks, with eight strike outs and three home runs, Lester struggled from the beginning. On his first four pitches of the game he matched his home run total (two) over his previous five starts combined. The three home runs he allowed matched a career high, which he set on Opening Day in Texas. The only other time Lester had given up back-to-back home runs was May 4, 2009, at Yankee Stadium, when Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira went deep in the fifth inning. Saturday was the first time he has given up two home runs in the first inning.

Trailing 2-0 entering the second inning, his offense got him back to square. But, he gave up the go-ahead runs in the third inning, when former Sox catcher George Kottaras led off with a home run. Then with two outs, Lester allowed back-to-back walks followed by an RBI single.

"We lost, Lester said. You can sit back and say there were some positives, with the way it started it could have been a lot worse. Just tried to minimize the damage and keep the guys in the game. Obviously with the way we've been swinging the bat lately, I thought for sure if I just kept them where they were at, we'd have a chance. But you've got to tip your hat to Randy Wolf tonight. He threw the ball better than I did. And that's the main thing - you've got to outpitch the other guy, and he did that tonight."
THE TURNING POINT
Trailing 2-0 going into the bottom of the second, the Sox offense evened the game as Kevin Youkilis led off with a double, followed by David Ortizs walk. With two outs, Jarrod Saltalamacchias single scored Youkilis, and Mike Camerons single scored Ortiz.

But Lester quickly gave up the go-ahead runs and the game in the next inning when former Sox catcher George Kottaras led off with his second home run of the season. With two outs, Lester allowed back-to-back walks, followed by a run-scoring single from Casey McGehee.

After that, the Sox offense could do little with Brewers lefty Randy Wolf, mustering just five baserunners over the next five innings, with just one extra-base hit a Marco Scutaro double to lead off the fourth -- and four singles.

STAT OF THE DAY: 14
With three home runs allowed to the Brewers, Lester has now given up 14 in 15 starts this season, matching his home run total of 2010 in 32 games. The three home runs are a career-high, matching the number of homers he gave up to the Rangers on Opening Day. The only other time Lester had given up back-to-back home runs was May 4, 2009, at Yankee Stadium, to Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira in the fifth inning. Saturday was the first time he has given up two home runs in the first inning. The last Sox pitcher to give up back-to-back homers to start a game was Pedro Martinez on June 3, 2002, in Detroit.

QUOTE OF NOTE:

He fell behind a lot of hitters. They were aggressive. The back-to-back homers kind of set the tone a little bit for them. But he just fell behind a lot of guys. But to his credit, he battled and gave us a lot of innings. We were still in the game. I think we let Wolf off the hook with some at-bats. But all in all, I think he was just battling some control. --Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia on Jon Lesters outing

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

IRVING, Texas -- Baseball players and owners reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract Wednesday night, a deal that will extend the sport's industrial peace to 26 years since the ruinous fights in the first two decades of free agency.

After days of near round-the-clock talks, negotiators reached a verbal agreement about 3 1/2 hours before the expiration of the current pact. Then they worked to draft a memorandum of understanding, which must be ratified by both sides.

"It's great! Another five years of uninterrupted baseball," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text message.

In announcing the agreement, Major League Baseball and the players' association said they will make specific terms available when drafting is complete.

"Happy it's done, and baseball is back on," Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said.

As part of the deal, the experiment of having the All-Star Game determine which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series will end after 14 years, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been signed.

Instead, the pennant winner with the better regular-season record will open the Series at home.

Another important change: The minimum time for a stint on the disabled list will be reduced from 15 days to 10.

The luxury tax threshold rises from $189 million to $195 million next year, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021.

Tax rates increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first offenders, remain at 30 percent for second offenders and rise from 40 percent to 50 percent for third offenders. There is a new surtax of 12 percent for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 42.5 percent for first offenders more than $40 million above the threshold and 45 percent for subsequent offenders more than $40 million above.

Union head Tony Clark, presiding over a negotiation for the first time, said in a statement the deal "will benefit all involved in the game and leaves the game better for those who follow."

Key changes involve the qualifying offers clubs can make to their former players after they become free agents - the figure was $17.2 million this year. If a player turns down the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team forfeits an amateur draft pick, which usually had been in the first round under the old deal.

Under the new rules, a player can receive a qualifying offer only once in his career and will have 10 days to consider it instead of seven. A club signing a player who declined a qualifying offer would lose its third-highest amateur draft pick if it is a revenue-sharing receiver, its second- and fifth-highest picks (plus a loss of $1 million in its international draft pool) if it pays luxury tax for the just-ended season, and its second-highest pick (plus $500,000 in the international draft pool) if it is any other team.

A club losing a free agent who passed up a qualifying offer would receive an extra selection after the first round of the next draft if the player signed a contract for $50 million or more and after competitive balance round B if under $50 million. However, if that team pays luxury tax, the extra draft pick would drop to after the fourth round.

Among other details:

-For a team $40 million or more in excess of the luxury tax threshold, its highest selection in the next amateur draft will drop 10 places.

-While management failed to obtain an international draft of amateurs residing outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, it did get a hard cap on each team's annual bonus pool for those players starting at $4.75 million for the signing period that begins next July 2.

-There is no change to limits on active rosters, which remain at 25 for most of the season and 40 from Sept. 1 on.

-Smokeless tobacco will be banned for all new players, those who currently do not have at least one day of major league service.

-The regular season will expand from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating four more scheduled off days. There are additional limitations on the start times of night games on getaway days.

-The minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years; the minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises.

-The drop-off in slot values in the first round of the amateur draft will be lessened.

-Oakland's revenue-sharing funds will be cut to 75 percent next year, 50 percent in 2018, 25 percent in 2019 and then phased out.

-As part of the drug agreement, there will be increased testing, players will not be credited with major league service time during suspensions, and biomarker testing for HGH will begin next year.

Negotiators met through most of Tuesday night in an effort to increase momentum in the talks, which began during spring training. This is the third straight time the sides reached a new agreement before the old contract expired, but a deal was struck eight weeks in advance in 2006 and three weeks ahead of expiration in 2011.

Talks took place at a hotel outside Dallas where the players' association held its annual executive board meeting.

Clark, the first former player to serve as executive director of the union, and others set up in a meeting room within earshot of a children's choir practicing Christmas carols. A man dressed as Santa Claus waited nearby.

Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the last a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. The 2002 agreement was reached after players authorized a strike and about 3 1/2 hours before the first game that would have been impacted by a walkout.

The peace in baseball is in contrast to the recent labor histories of other major sports. The NFL had a preseason lockout in 2011, the NBA lost 240 games to a lockout that same year and the NHL lost 510 games to a lockout in 2012-13.