By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
PITTSBURGH Although the Red Sox lost their previous two games at home against National League teams, perhaps if this game had been played in Fenway Park, the outcome might have been different. Instead, Jon Lester exited the game after just six innings albeit, with 107 pitches making way for a pinch-hitter.
Lester gave up three runs (two earned) on eight hits, a walk, and a hit batter, with five strikeouts. While he was not dominant, the outing was good enough for his 11th quality start in 16 outings this season. Instead, he suffered the loss, falling to 9-4, with a 3.66 ERA, as the Sox dropped the opener of their three-game set with the Pirates, 3-1.
"Actually thought he was pretty good, said manager Terry Francona. One walk and that was the pitcher in an inning when they scored two. We didn't help him out a whole lot.
The Sox left 11 runners on base, and went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. With David Ortiz out of the lineup until a pinch-hit appearance in the eighth inning, the Sox had to adjust to the National League style of play.
I dont worry about the offense, Lester said. I worry about getting outs. I dont want to give up any runs, let alone three. So just battled tonight.
Overall, Lester was satisfied with his outing, calling it good.
Threw the ball pretty well, he said. Kept the ball down. Other than two hits tonight, everything else was not squared up. Ill take my chances with that every time.
The Pirates scored two runs in the third when Ronny Cedeno led off with a bunt and went to third when Mike Cameron misplayed Mike McKenrys fly ball for a double. With first base open, Lester walked Maholm before Jose Tabata lined a shot off third base, scoring Cedeno. Chase dArnaud grounded into a double play, scoring McKenry, giving the Pirates a 2-1 lead.
In the sixth Neil Walker led off with a hard-hit ball that Kevin Youkilis couldnt handle. On the next batter, Matt Diaz, Youkilis fifth error of the season put runners at first and second for Lyle Overbay, who entered the game hitting .226 this season. But he went 2-for-3, including and RBI single in this at-bat to improve to 9-for-24 (.375) in his career against Lester, giving the Pirates a 3-1 edge.
Lester threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of the 27 batters he faced.
Jon did fine, said catcher Jason Varitek. Pitched himself out of some situations and had to make some pitches. Got some ground balls and unfortunately they were able to capitalize on some situations. But most importantly we didnt swing the bats very well.
Obviously I had a lot of pitches coming out of the sixth, Lester said. But if Im not hitting, maybe theres a chance to get another one. Thats National League baseball.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen