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Closing Time: Jon Lester left still looking for answers as Blue Jays sweep Red Sox

07.22.12 at 5:05 pm ET
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Blue Jays third base coach Brian Butterfield seen in the Fenway Park visitors clubhouse before waving in a boatload of runners Sunday morning. (WEEI.com)

Just when Jon Lester thought it couldn’t get any worse …

The Red Sox starter struggled through perhaps the worst outing of his career, allowing a career-high runs (11) and home runs (4), while tying his mark for most walks surrendered (5), in the Sox’ 15-7 loss to the Blue Jays, Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park.

Lester saw his ERA jump from 4.80 to 5.46 after giving up the 11 runs over just four innings, allowing nine of the runs to come in the initial two innings. The lefty now has a 15.62 ERA in his last three starts (21 runs, 12 1/3 innings), having not made it past 4 1/3 innings in any of the outings.

It marked the most runs allowed by a Red Sox starter since Doug Bird when he allowed 11 over 2 2/3 innings on May 24, 1983. The last time a Sox starter gave up 11 runs was when Tim Wakefield suffered though a 5 2/3-inning, 11-run outing on May 5 against Toronto, with all but one of the runs being unearned.

It continued a bad trend of the top of the Red Sox rotation, with the team carrying a 13-23 mark in starts by Lester and Josh Beckett. Conversely, the Yankees are 23-12 in games their two highest-paid pitchers – CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda – have started.

Here is what went wrong for the Red Sox in suffering a three-game sweep at the hands of the Blue Jays:

WHAT WENT WRONG

- On Lester’s very first pitch of the game, Brett Lawrie turned a 94 mph fastball around, depositing it well over the left field wall for a quick 1-0 lead for the Blue Jays. It was the third time this year a player has hit the first pitch of the game for a home run, with the Reds’ Zack Cozart and Derek Jeter of the Yankees previously accomplishing the feat.

- The five-inning first inning included a successful squeeze bunt by Jeff Mathis, scoring Rajai Davis. There was no option to go home with the ball as catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia retrieved the bunt, leaving home plate open for Davis to score.

- The first inning pitch counts for Lester in his last four starts is as follows: 31, 29, 27, 29. He would finish his first two innings having thrown 54 pitches, his second-highest count for the initial two frames this season.

- Lester’s troubles continued in the second when J.P. Arencibia blasted a three-run homer over the left-center field wall with two outs in the second inning to extend the Blue Jays’ lead to 8-3. That was followed by a solo shot by Davis, giving the visitors a six-run lead after having made just five outs. It marked the first time since last season’s Opening Day Lester had allowed three homers in first two innings.

- Daniel Nava continued to struggle, going hitless and in four at-bats. He is now gone 8-for-74 (.108) dating back to June 25.

- With the Red Sox still within striking distance at a four-run deficit, reliever Mark Melancon came on in the eighth and struggled through a four-run outing while just getting one out.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

- Adrian Gonzalez hit his ninth homer of the season – a three-run job – in the first inning. The bomb was the first baseman’s second of the season in which he cleared the right field fence at Fenway Park, having done it three occasions last season.

- Jacoby Ellsbury notched his first home run of the season, taking Henderson Alvarez over the center field wall in the fifth inning.

- Junichi Tazawa turned in one his best outings in his young major league career, throwing three shutout innings, while allowing just two hits and no walks to go along with five strikeouts.

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