Notes: Dependable Lester dominant again

Notes: Dependable Lester dominant again
September 6, 2011, 9:24 pm
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By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
TORONTO -- Jon Lester has now won his last four decisions, but that doesn't begin to illustrate how well he's pitching of late.

Lester, who tossed seven shutout innings in the Red Sox' 14-0 blanking of the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday night, improved to 15-6 this season.

The lefty has allowed one or no runs over each of his last five outings, the longest such streak for a Red Sox lefty since Lefty Grove accomplished the feat in 1935.

"Every night, we're just going with what's (working) good," said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "When you have four pitches you can use, it's nice to be able to mix it up and not stay with the same stuff every time."

Of course, it helps when your team scores four runs in the top of the first, before you even take the mound.

"It definitely helps," said Lester, who lowered his ERA to 2.93. "It calms your nerves and makes you feel more comfortable out there. It never hurts. The more runs we score, the pressure of having to make perfect pitches is off your shoulders. You just go out and just try to execute your game plan."

Lester has won at least 15 games in each of his last four seasons, an accomplishment in itself, but said the number he takes the most pride in is throwing 200 innings.

Thanks to a left lat strain which sidelined him for a stretch in July, it's unlikely that Lester will reach that milestone this season. He's at 172 innings with no more than four starts remaining.

"On a club like this, wins will take care of themselves," he said. "I've been fortunate to be on the good side a lot more than the bad side. But as far as numbers or goals, my only goal as a pitcher is to get to 200 innings."

With three weeks remaining in the season, Lester said he feels "fresher than most. Right now, I feel good. I'm trying to get on a roll and see where it takes us."

Marco Scutaro, who has hit ninth for much of the season, was a little surprised to see himself listed sixth on the Red Sox lineup card Tuesday.

Asked what he was thinking when he saw that, he joked: "Are we trying today?"

Scutaro couldn't remember hitting sixth before, but was told that it had happened twice before.

But Terry Francona must have known something. Scutaro had four hits (including three doubles) and four RBI, each tying career highs, as the Red Sox rolled to an easy victory.

"It's nice to have a day like this," said Scutaro.

Scutaro missed time earlier in the season with an oblique strain, and in the process, lost the starting shortstop job to Jed Lowrie.

But when Lowrie himself went down with a shoulder injury, Scutaro responded. He's now hitting .282 and has hit safely in 17 of his last 20 games.

He's hitting .337 (34-for-101) in his last 27 games with at least one plate appearance.

"I feel much better than in the beginning of the season," said Scutaro. "This game's timing and rhythm. When your timing's good, you see the ball better, you can wait for pitches and stay away from bad pitches, too. That's pretty much the difference, I think."

While the Red Sox await further word on the status of Josh Beckett (ankle) and skip a start with Erik Bedard (knee), Clay Buchholz continues to throw on the side with an eye toward contributing in the postseason.

Tuesday afternoon Buchholz threw from a distance of about 90 feet.

"I threw about 25 warmup pitches from 60-75 feet," said Buchholz, "then 25 more at 90 feet. No problem. The effort level was a little bit higher today, just to test it out. Everything was good."

In terms of intensity, he estimated that his effort Tuesday was at about "65-70 percent".

Buchholz will throw from a distance of 105 feet Wednesday, then take a day off before stretching out to 120 feet. After two days at 120 feet, he'll throw on flat ground using both a windup and stretch delivery, then be ready to get up on a mound.

"I haven't felt any pain throwing for a while now," said Buchholz optimistically. "It's definitely a good thing. We're still moving forward and there haven't been any setbacks."

The big test will be putting spikes on and throwing off a mound. In July, that's when Buchholz encountered roadblocks, feeling enough discomfort in his back that was ordered to shut down all throwing for about a month.

"I'm anxious to get to that point and see how everything goes," he said. "If everything goes right, while we're at home starting Monday, I'll be able to see how it feels off the mound."

The big question -- apart from how Buchholz feels physically -- is whether there's enough time for him to build up arm strength and be ready for the postseason. The end of the regular season is just over three weeks away.

"That's one thing the medical and training staff has never been able to tell me, is . . . a timetable,'' he said. "It's all on feel. If I was to go out and throw and it didn't feel right, we'd probably take a step back. There's definitely no timeline.

"But if everything goes right and I'm able to not have any setbacks and get off a mound and start working my way back up, I'm not sure the end of the season is going to be the right number. But if we do what we want to do -- get to the postseason and play well, that's what I'm really hoping for."

Buchholz wasn't ready to count himself out for the start of the Division Series, which is 3 12 weeks away.

"It just depends on how my body reacts," he said. "I feel strong. I've been running and doing my shoulder program. But being in shape and being in pitching shape are two different things. I've got to get back to the point and the only way I can get to that point is get off the mound and throw.

"It's going to take a little time to do that, but if that goes well, I think everything will be fine."

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