|‘Just win’||09.25.08 at 8:19 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona was walking through the tunnel leading from the clubhouse to the field prior to Tuesday night’s game at Fenway Park when he ran into Jed Lowrie. The night before Lowrie had struck out swinging to end a Sox loss, helping punctuate struggles the rookie found himself living with throughout the past few weeks.
Francona put his hands on the shortstop’s shoulders and offered Lowrie some advice. The message incorporated words that lasted all the way through to Thursday night’s 6-1 victory over Cleveland.
“You know what he said?” said Lowrie after his two-hit performance against the Indians. “He said, ‘Just win. Just win and everything else will take care of itself.’”
So that’s what Lowrie did, and it worked. Hitting from his more proficient side of the plate — the right side — he claimed a single and double after just the first two innings, helping the Red Sox build a 5-0 lead after the initial pair of frames.
Heading into the game Lowrie was riding an 0 for 18 stretch which included five straight hitless games. He had also gone 4 for 37 during his previous 10 games and had watched his batting average drop from .295 to .256 over the last 23 contests.
But last night, with the combination of a lefty (Jeremy Sowers) on the mound (Lowrie was hitting .333 against southpaws compared to .222 vs. righties) and the words of Francona still fresh in his mind, Lowrie took a step in the right direction.
“I don’t think it was planned,” said Lowrie of Francona’s impromptu get-together. “It just reiterated the fact. All I am usually thinking about when I go out there is how I can help the team win, but to hear it from him, it kind of reiterates it. It’s that simple. I think clinching obviously takes a little bit of pressure off these games, even though you still want to win. But hearing the encouragement, like that from Tito, that goes a long ways.”
Another Sox rookie, Jacoby Ellsbury, continued to gain momentum heading into the post-season, joining Lowrie in notching a pair of hits to extend his hitting streak to 16 games, the longest by a rookie in the major leagues this season.
Ellsbury is now batting .347 with eight multi-hit games during the 16-game streak, which ranks as the longest hitting streak by a Red Sox rookie since Nomar Garciaparra’s 30-gamer in 1997.
The Red Sox are now 14-3 at home against American League Central teams … Thanks to the three innings turned in by Justin Masterson, Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon, the Sox bullpen has now tossed 15 scoreless innings over the club’s last five games … The Red Sox hurlers gave up two hits on the night, the fourth time Boston pitchers have accomplished the feat. Only Tampa Bay’s staff has more such games … After his first five at-bats, Minnesota’s Joe Mauer had three hits to boost his American League-leading average to .330. After going 1 for 3 Thursday night Dustin Pedroia stands at .325.
Jon Lester improved to 4-1 with a 2.01 ERA over his last six starts, allowing one or less runs in five of those outings. It marks the 13th time this season he has gone at least six innings while giving up one or few runs. Among American League pitchers, only Toronto’s Roy Halladay has more, coming into Thursday night with 14.
Lester’s 16th win is the most by a Boston lefty since Bruce Hurst’s 18 in 1988. He also notched his 20th quality start of the season, fourth among A.L. left-handers. The last Red Sox lefty to have as m any quality starts was Frank Viola with 23 in 1992.
Gil Velazquez made his major league debut in his 11th professional season, pinch-running for Alex Cora in the sixth inning. He didn’t get a chance to come to the plate but was presented with the lineup card after the game by Sox bench coach Brad Mills.
Cleveland manager Eric Wedge on Lester: “He was as good of a left-hander as we’ve seen all year. He was outstanding.”
Francona on Lester’s outing: “He really did well. We kind of though about 85 (pitches) would be good and he was right there. He never had a real long inning. He did a good job.
Francona on Lester’s pitch count during the no-hitter: “Well, he was coming out. I told him that was the first time I’ve ever rooted against him. The only way you’re going to see something like that would’ve had to have been a group effort.”
Francona on Lester’s growth over the past season: “He’s matured so much. As a young man we’ve seen that side of it but physically, just because of everything he’s been through, he’s now getting away form everything he’s gone through and he’s getting stronger. His endurance, his maturity pitching, you could go on and on about a lot of aspects but I’ll tell you it’s been fun to watch.”
Francona on Lowrie’s offensive production: “He’s been feeling real good right-handed. Left-handed has been a little bit of a struggle. Jake’s (Ellsbury) running early in the game, and (he) hits that line-drive into the gap and gets us going. But I think all along he’s felt pretty good right-handed.”
Lester on having a no-hitter but knowing pitch count would be an issue: “Just keep throwing strikes. I’m not really worried about it. It’s one of those things, kind of like last time, if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. I knew that Tito was going to have a short leash on me. I just had to go out there and keep pounding the zone. If it ended up happening and working out to where I could have done it with not a lot of pitches, then great. If not, no big deal. Get out of there in the sixth inning and everything’s good.
“I didn’t isolate myself from anybody. I still went to talk to (Jason Varitek), talk to Johnny (Farrell) and figure some things out. I’m not going to sit on the edge of the bench and not talk to my teammates just because of that. I don’t really understand that. They’re out there catching the ball for you and hitting it so you’ve got to keep them occupied and keep their minds off of it too.
“No-hit through five innings is good but you still have a long way to go to where it starts to set in. I don’t think until about the seventh inning you start to really worry about it. Five innings is nice, but when you get deeper in the ballgame is where it starts to mean a little more.”
Lester on 16 wins vs. 200 innings: “I think 200 innings. For me I associate that with guys like (Josh) Beckett, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens. Guys that are pretty much the horses of the team. They’re going to go out there, pound the strike zone, and give you good efforts every night. To me that’s kind of an honor to get up to that number. That means you’re going deep into ballgames and not throwing a lot of pitches.”
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