Notes: Dependable Lester dominant again

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Notes: Dependable Lester dominant again

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.

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'a pitch or two from finishing the job' vs. Rays

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'a pitch or two from finishing the job' vs. Rays

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay Rays:

QUOTES:

"Part of that job is, when you miss, you have to miss to the extreme.'' - John Farrell on the role of eighth-inning reliever Clay Buchholz, who mislocated a fastball to Evan Longoria.

"We're putting ourselves in position to close games out and yet we've found ourselves a pitch or two from finishing the job.'' - Farrell on the team's bullpen woes.

"Fastball. I was trying to throw it up-and-away, and I pulled it, more inner-third. That's a spot where he hits the ball a long way.'' - Clay Buchholz on the game-winning homer by Longoria.

 

NOTES:

* The Rays and Sox have played 21 one-run games in the lasr four seasons and four in the last week.

* David Ortiz's sacrifice fly in the sixth was his 26th go-ahead RBI, fourth-best in the A.L.

* Xander Bogaerts collected his 500th career hit, and became the fifth Red Sox player to reach that milestone before turning 24.

* Brock Holt's double in the fifth lifted his average to .337 with two outs.

* Hanley Ramirez's home run was his first against Tampa Bay since May 21, 2011 when he was with the Marlins.

* Ramirez has 19 extra-base hits in the last 27 home games.

* Dustin Pedroia was 1-for-3 and and is now 15-for-his-last-19 at Fenway.

* The Sox dropped to 7-37 when they score three runs or fewer.

* Brad Ziegler was unavailable, suffering from the flu.

 

STARS:

1) Evan Longoria

It wouldn't be a Rays win over the Red Sox without the third baseman doing some damage. Sure enough, he smoked a tape-measure shot over everything in left in the eighth to provide the winning margin for the visitors.

2) Luke Maile

Drew Pomeranz struck him out twice, but Maile more than got revenge in the seventh with a two-run homer into the Monster Seats to tie the game.

3) Hanley Ramirez

The first baseman had a three-hit night, including a solo homer and a run-scoring single, accounting for two of the three Red Sox runs.

 

First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

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First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

BOSTON - First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay:

* There's a steep learning curve for a set-up man, as Clay Buchholz discovered.

Although he's pitched out of the bullpen for the last couple of months, most of those appearances weren't of the high leverage variety. More often than not, the Sox had a sizeable lead, or Buchholz was brought in earlier in the game. Or they were behind and he was mopping up.

But Tuesday was different. The Rays had battled back to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, and after Matt Barnes got the final out in that inning, Buchholz came in to start the eighth.

After getting Kevin Kiermaier on a groundout to lead off the inning, Buchholz threw a four-seamer to Evan Longoria that the Tampa Bay third baseman launched toward the Charles River, clearing everything and putting the Rays up by a run.

It was a reminder that in late innings of close games, one pitch, with missed location, can really hurt.

 

* Hanley Ramirez knocked in two runs. He was sort of lucky.

In the fifth inning, Ramirez hit a twisting opposite-field fly ball down the right field line. It landed just past the Pesky Pole in right, measured at 307 feet, the shortest homer in baseball this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Then, an inning later, Ramirez hit a pop fly that drifted into shallow right. Three Rays defenders converged -- first baseman, second baseman and right fielder -- and somehow the ball dropped in between all three for a run-scoring single.

Two cheap hits, two RBI.

At times, you'll see hitters mash the ball, only to have it hit right at someone for an out. Rotten luck, and all.

Tuesday night, Ramirez got to experience the flip side of that.

 

* Drew Pomeranz had an excellent outing -- until his final pitch of the night.

Through 6 2/3 innings, Pomeranz had allowed a single run on four hits while walking two and striking out eight.

He had retired 10 of the previous 11 hitters he had faced, and while he was approaching his 100th pitch, showed no evidence of tiring.

Then, Pomernaz hung a curveball to No. 9 hitter Luke Maile -- with two strikes, no less -- and Maile hit into the Monster Seats for a game-tying, two-run homer.

It was the first homer on a curveball allowed by Pomeranz in 153 innings this season, and all of a sudden, the outing wasn't so special.