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

First Impressions: Kelly’s setback unsettling

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First Impressions: Kelly’s setback unsettling

First impressions of Red Sox 7-5 loss to Toronto:

 

Joe Kelly still has to prove he can be trusted to start for the Red Sox.

With the demotion of Clay Buchholz to the bullpen after Kelly’s lockdown start in his return from the DL, Kelly went back to his old ways.

After mixing pitches well in his first outing, Kelly threw 94 pitches -- 70 fastballs -- in 4.2 innings. In his previous start, he threw 66 fastballs over 104 pitches.

That approach won’t fly, especially if his fastball command is as subpar as it was against Toronto.

The Blue Jays’ batters seemed very comfortable in the box, despite Kelly throwing as hard as he does with so much movement. That can’t become the norm for opposing hitters.

 

The Red Sox offense can handle any starting pitcher -- but they can’t do it alone.

After Jon Gray shut down Boston in the final game of the Colorado series, Red Sox hitters faced a familiar foe that had already had success against them earlier in the year in Aaron Sanchez.

Despite using his curveball much more than his start earlier in the season, Boston’s hitters made adjustments. He did hold them down for much of the early going, but Red Sox hitters still scraped out four runs in his seven innings.

But the pitching staff didn’t hold up it’s end, essentially letting Josh Donaldson beat Boston by himself.

 

Xander Bogaerts made sure Sanchez didn’t ruin the streak.

Now hitting safely through 20 games, Bogaerts extended his streak against the starter who had him baffled when they faced off earlier in the year. The biggest difference from their last matchups was Bogaerts put good swings in against Sanchez mistakes -- and he didn’t appear off-balance after every swing.

 

Matt Barnes will not be Carson Smith’s replacement in 2016.

Despite his upper 90s fastball and 12-6 curveball, Barnes still can’t put together dominant appearances. His lack of command -- with a straight fastball -- is the big reason. Boston will have to look elsewhere -- internally or from another organization -- to give the bullpen another reliable set-up man given Koji Uehara’s age and durability.

 

The baseball gods are on Boston’s side -- for now.

As if Jose Bautista sitting out after appealing an earlier suspension wasn’t enough, the Red Sox scored their first run without a hit. Then the red Sox tied the game in the eighth on an error, after Dustin Pedroia had reach on a double that landed because Michael Saunders and Kevin Pillar had a communication breakdown.

Rodriguez to start Tuesday, Buchholz to bullpen

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Rodriguez to start Tuesday, Buchholz to bullpen

As expected, Eduardo Rodriguez will start for the Red Sox on Tuesday in Baltimore and Clay Buchholz will go to the bullpen, manager John Farrell told reporters in Toronto.

The move became apparent after Buchholz (2-5, 6.35 ERA) struggled again Thursday night, allowing three two-run home runs in an 8-2 loss to the Rockies.

Rodriguez, who hurt his knee in spring training, has yet to pitch for the Red Sox this season. The left-hander, who was 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA as a rookie last season,  made three rehab starts at Triple-A Pawtucket. 

"The bottom line is the results, and there's been a strong precedent set with that," Farrell said of Buchholz in annoucning the move. 

Friday’s lineups: Red Sox vs. Blue Jays - Ortiz and Bautista out

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Friday’s lineups: Red Sox vs. Blue Jays - Ortiz and Bautista out

David Ortiz is out of the starting lineup and Jose Bautista sits for the Blue Jays as the Red Sox open a three-game series tonight in Toronto.

It’s a night off for Ortiz, while Bautista is serving his one-game suspension for his fight with the Texas Rangers' Roughned Odor earlier this month.

Hanley Ramirez moves to DH for the Red Sox, with Travis Shaw playing first base and Marco Hernandez filling in at third against Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez (4-1, 3.20 ERA). Joe Kelly (2-0, 5.28) makes his second start since coming off the disabled list for the Red Sox. He pitched 6 2/3 no-hit innings Saturday in his return, a 9-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

The lineups:

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Travis Shaw 1B
Hanley Ramirez DH
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Marco Hernandez 3B
Christian Vazquez C
Blake Swihart LF

Joe Kelly RHP

BLUE JAYS
Ezequiel Carrera RF
Josh Donaldson 2B
Edwin Encaracion DH 
Michael Saunders LF
Troy Tulowitzki SS
Justin Smoak 1B
Russell Martin C
Devon Travis 2B
Kevin Pillar CF

Aaron Sanchez RHP