Notes: Lester loses back-to-back games

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Notes: Lester loses back-to-back games

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

MINNEAPOLIS -- Jon Lester sports one of the best winning percentages of any active pitcher in the big leagues, so when he loses back-to-back starts, it's noteworthy.

Lester, who lost to the Yankees last Friday in the series opener with New York, suffered another defeat Wednesday, charged with four runs in 7 13 innings in the Sox' 5-2 setback to the Minnesota Twins.

A big issue for Lester was command -- or lack thereof. He issued five walks, tying a season high, and two of the five hitters he walked came around to score.

"I feel like I had pretty good stuff," said Lester, "but I wasn't able to locate. I gave them too many opportunities and when you do that, giving up runs is what happens."

Beyond the walks, Lester wasn't able to consistently locate his pitches within the strike zone where he wanted them. He left a pitch up to Jim Thome, his last batter of the night, and the lefty slugger drove it for a run-scoring double, giving the Twins a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

"At times, I didn't know where the pitch was going," said Lester. "It was one of those grinders tonight and we came out on the other end.

"Free passes, free runners and more opportunities. It doesn't matter what team it is in the big leagues, if you give them more opportunities, they're going to score runs."

Lester labored from the first inning, when he gave up three hits, a walk and a run. He was more efficient from the second through the fifth, facing the minimum number of hitters in each of those four frames before control issues surfaced against in the sixth, seventh and eighth.

"He really picked it up after the first," said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "Just getting ahead of hitters was what we had trouble with. It's a feel thing. I think he did a great job fighting. On a positive note, he battled through it and still got us into the eighth inning."

When Terry Francona pinch-hit Dustin Pedroia for Josh Reddick in the top of the eighth inning, he decided to leave Pedroia in the game at second and shift Mike Aviles -- who had started at second in place of Pedroia, who had the night off -- to right field, rather that have Aviles remain at second with Darnell McDonald in right.

The move seemed to backfire in the bottom of the inning when Terry Plouffe lofted a fly ball to right with one out and two on.

Aviles, who hadn't played a game in the outfield as a pro until last Saturday, broke in for a second, then couldn't catch up as the ball landed behind him, on the warning track, for a run-scoring single.

As evidence of how catchable the ball appeared to be, both baserunners advanced only a base, believing that Aviles would make the play.

"It's a big outfield," said Francona. "That's part of the experience. I don't think it's so much the moving around as much as it is the depth position and things like that."

For the first time in more than two months, Pedroia was out of the starting lineup.

Having played every game since June 9, when he left a Red Sox-Yankees series in New York to have his ailing knee examined in Boston, he was given the night off . . . for a while, anyway. He did enter the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth, and stayed in at second base.

Pedroia's season has turned around since that day off June 9. In that two-month stretch, covering 53 games prior to Wednesday night -- or almost exactly, one-third of the season -- Pedroia had a line of .376.447.664 an OPS of 1.071. He had 11 homers and 38 RBI in that span.

From June 15 through Tuesday, Pedroia led the majors in hits, on-base percentage, OPS and total bases.

"He needed it, though," said Francona. "I kept telling him the last few days he was going to sit in the series finale and he was fighting me. Then last night, after the game, he was like, 'Yeah, I'm tired.'

"It will be good for him. It's just hard to go back, once you go too far with a tired player. This will be good for him.

"He needs a little blow. He won't have the game hanging over his head and he can relax a little bit."

Despite Wednesday's loss, the Red Sox' road record of 35-22 (.614) is best in the American League and second-best in the majors, behind the Phillies' 36-22.

Take away the team's 0-7 start away from Fenway, and the Sox are an incredible 35-15 (.700) on the road.

"I know in the past," said Francona, "there were places that were tough for us. We didn't have a lot of team speed and we'd go into the Metrodome, Toronto . . . places like Tampa, or big fields and we'd get exposed a little bit.

"I think our bullpen has helped. On the road, if you don't have a deep bullpen, you're going to lose some games. I think guys like Alfredo Aceves and Matt Albers have helped us a ton there. And we're more athletic and faster than we used to be."

Outfielder J.D. Drew took 35 swings in the cage and will take batting practice on the field both Friday and Saturday in Seattle.

He'll be re-evalauted when the Sox return for a brief three- game homestand. It's possible that when the Sox leave for Kansas City next week for an eight-game road swing, Drew could go to Pawtucket and begin a rehab assignment.

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

Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

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Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

NEW YORK -- It had the potential to be the most awkward celebration ever.

In the top of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, before their game was complete, the Red Sox became American League East champions, by virtue of one other division rival -- Baltimore -- coming back to beat another -- Toronto -- in the ninth inning.

That eliminated the Blue Jays from the division race, and made the Sox division champs.

But that ninth inning reversal of fortune was about to visit the Red Sox, too.

Craig Kimbrel faced four hitters and allowed a single and three straight walks, leading to a run. When, after 28 pitches, he couldn't get an out, he was lifted for Joe Kelly, who recorded one out, then yielded a walk-off grand slam to Mark Teixeira.

The Yankees celebrated wildly on the field, while the Red Sox trudged into the dugout, beset with mixed emotions.

Yes, they had just lost a game that seemed theirs. But they also had accomplished something that had taken 158 games.

What to do?

The Sox decided to drown their temporary sorrows in champagne.

"As soon as we got in here,'' said Jackie Bradley Jr., "we quickly got over it.''

From the top of the eighth until the start of the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox seemed headed in a conventional celebration.

A two-run, bases-loaded double by Mookie Betts and a wild pitch -- the latter enabling David Ortiz to slide into home and dislodge the ball from former teammate Tommy Layne's glove --- had given the Sox a 3-0 lead.

Koji Uehara worked around a walk to post a scoreless walk and after the top of the ninth, the Sox called on Craig Kimbrel, who had successfully closed out all but two save opportunities all season.

But Kimbrel quickly allowed a leadoff single to Brett Gardner and then began pitching as though he forgot how to throw strikes. Three straight walks resulted in a run in and the bases loaded.

Joe Kelly got an out, but then Teixeira, for the second time this week, produced a game-winning homer in the ninth. On Monday, he had homered in Toronto to turn a Blue Jays win into a loss, and now, here he was again.

It may have been a rather meaningless victory for the Yankees -- who remain barely alive for the wild card -- but it did prevent them the indignity of watching the Red Sox celebrate on their lawn.

Instead, the Sox wore the shame of the walk-off -- at least until they reached their clubhouse, where the partying began in earnest.

It had taken clubhouse attendants less than five minutes to cover the floor and lockers with plastic protective sheets. In a matter of a few more minutes, the air was filled with a mix of beer and bubbly.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski wore a goggles and only socks on his feet.

As the spray reached every inch of the clubhouse, David Ortiz exclaimed: "I'm going to drown in this man.''

Defeat? What defeat?