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No April Fool’s start: Lester pleased with strong first month 04.17.11 at 6:39 pm ET
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Jon Lester‘s history of April blahs was well documented. He entered this season with a 3-6 record and 4.76 ERA in 20 career starts in March and April. His slow starts out of the gate both undermined potential Cy Young candidacies and left the pitcher befuddled.

This year, he has not had to puzzle through such concerns. Since somewhat puzzling first start of the year (a 5 1/3 inning outing against the Rangers in which Lester failed to get a single strikeout), Lester has been true to form as one of the elite pitchers in the game.

On Sunday, that continued in Lester’s first victory of the year, on a day when the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays, 8-1, to achieve their first two-game winning streak of the season. He logged six-plus innings and allowed just one run on six hits, punching out five. In his last three starts, Lester now has a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings, during which he’s allowed 16 hits and struck out 22 in 20 innings.

This was not, however, vintage Lester. The 27-year-old had to work for his results, on a day when his command was slightly off, and when his feel for different pitches came and went at different times.

But in that respect, it was a marker of what a good pitcher Lester is. Because he has so many weapons on the mound — fastball, two-seamer, cutter, curve, changeup — he can shut down opposing lineups even on days when he doesn’t have his best stuff.

There were stretches of the game when he could rely on a four-seam fastball that produced not only four swings and misses but also multiple shattered bats (one of which came perilously close to Lester’s face). There were other stretches later in the outing when his cutter became a tremendous weapon, eliciting four swings and misses as well. And, he stunned Adam Lind into a strikeout at one point by dropping a rare left-on-left changeup to Toronto’s first baseman.

“I don’€™t think he commanded like he can, but he’€™s got all his pitches. He’€™s always got somewhere to go,” said manager Terry Francona. “It was probably at times a little hard. … [But] he’€™s got a lot of ways to get you out.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Closing Time: Red Sox 8, Blue Jays 1 04.17.11 at 4:42 pm ET
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And finally, there was a streak.

For the first time in 2011, the Red Sox own a multi-game winning streak. That their winning streak comes on the strength of consecutive outstanding starts is no surprise. One day after Josh Beckett dominated the Blue Jays, Jon Lester continued to stifle Toronto in an 8-1 Red Sox victory.

It wasn’t nearly as dominating as Beckett’s performance, but the left-hander’s third straight quality start was exactly what manager Terry Francona described before the game as the key ingredient to sustained success.

“If you get consistent pitching, you can have inconsistent hitting and still win. I think we all know when we get our lineup going, we’€™ll be pretty good. We’€™ll score some runs,” said Francona. “If you pitch, you give yourself a chance every night.”

The Sox are now in position to finish their nine-game homestand — on which they are currently 4-4 — with a winning record.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

–Remember when Jon Lester didn’t get a single swing and miss in his first start of the year against the Rangers? That seems like a long time ago.

For his third straight outing, Lester featured overpowering stuff. Even though he struggled with his command at times (three walks), he limited the Blue Jays to one run on six hits in six-plus innings while striking out five. He elicited nine swings and misses, four on fastballs (a pitch that topped out at 95 mph for the day), one on a change and four on cutters.

In his last three starts, Lester now has a 1.80 ERA with 22 strikeouts and 16 hits allowed in 20 innings. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: bobby jenks, carl crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, jarrod saltalamacchia
Street closures around Fenway Park on Monday 04.17.11 at 3:07 pm ET
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Courtesy of the Red Sox, the information about the many, many street closures near Fenway Park for Monday’s Patriots’ Day game:

According to information provided by the Boston Transportation Department website, there will be significant street closures in the Fenway neighborhood and surrounding areas tomorrow, Monday, April 18, 2011, on account of the 115th Boston Marathon. The Red Sox urge all fans to use public transportation, provide extra time for making the trip to Fenway Park and to arrive early. The game on Monday is scheduled to start at 11:05 a.m. and the Fenway Park gates will open to the public at 9:35 a.m.

The following streets will be closed to vehicular traffic tomorrow starting at 9:00 a.m. and lasting until at least 6:00 p.m.: Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox vs. Blue Jays Live Blog: Sox look for two straight 04.17.11 at 1:28 pm ET
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The Red Sox will try to notch their first multi-game winning streak of the young season, with Jon Lester on the mound against Jesse Litsch and the Toronto Blue Jays. Carl Crawford (5-for-10 career vs. Litsch) returns to the lineup as the leadoff hitter, while Jed Lowrie (batting .500) will hit sixth so that the switch-hitter can have some protection against left-handed relievers by separating David Ortiz and J.D. Drew.

WEEI.com is live on the scene. For the latest updates from the game, click below.

Red Sox/Blue Jays Live Blog

How Jonathan Papelbon’s slider could have changed Red Sox history 04.17.11 at 12:39 pm ET
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In 2007, Jonathan Papelbon was being groomed for the rotation during spring training. He’d suffered an almost-catastrophic injury at the end of his spectacular first season as a closer, enduring a shoulder subluxation at the end of the 2006 campaign, and the Sox thought that his long-term health might be better served while working on a five-day routine.

Moreover, Papelbon had made three solid starts to begin his big league career in 2005, allowing just four runs in 16 innings (2.25 ERA) while striking out 15 (and walking 10). The Sox thought that he could be a valuable asset as a member of the rotation.

There was only one problem. Papelbon couldn’t spin a decent breaking ball. He’d tried a slider in the minors, with poor reviews. He was throwing a curveball in big league camp in 2007; the pitch was flat, lifeless and eminently hittable.

Sox manager Terry Francona thought that Papelbon could be a solid starter based on his explosive mid-90s fastball and diving splitter, but the lack of a legitimate third pitch would limit his value in the rotation. He would see too many pitches fouled back, see his pitch counts run too high, to get deep into the game.

“I think that was the concern I had,” acknowledged Francona. “I looked at him more as a two-pitch pitcher and maybe a guy who would have to work so hard to get through five. I never thought he wouldn’€™t be successful or get people out, but he’€™d have to work so hard to get through five that all of a sudden he’€™s not going deep in games. He’€™s too good a pitcher. I always thought he could impact us better in the bullpen.”

It was a role, of course, that has suited Papelbon well. He has become one of the game’s elite closers, having made four All-Star teams, mostly on the strength of that fastball and splitter. Read the rest of this entry »

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Closing Time: Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 6 04.15.11 at 11:00 pm ET
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The Red Sox insist that they are better than a two-win team. They just have yet to play like one.

The team’s woeful start to 2011 continued, as the Sox dropped a 7-6 decision to the Blue Jays. Strike-throwing (or lack thereof) played a major roll in Friday night’s struggle, as both Clay Buchholz (94 pitches, 46 strikes) and Bobby Jenks (26 pitches, 14 strikes) could not command the baseball. Those two pitchers permitted seven runs, and the 7-3 hole that Jenks left behind him proved too deep for the Sox to escape, as a three-run rally in the eighth inning fell short.

Clearly, the natives are restless. The Sox earned plenty of boos from their home crowd as their record dropped to 2-10.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Bobby Jenks endured one of the worst games of his career. He allowed a career-high four runs and matched a career high by allowing four hits while retiring just one batter in the seventh inning. The reliever appeared to have little life or command of his fastball, which mostly remained in the low-90s. Jenks absorbed his first loss as a member of the Sox.

–Clay Buchholz didn’t give up a homer for the first time this season (thanks in part to having an Adam Lind liner down the right-field line that was initially ruled a homer overturned by replay), but he was still ultimately ineffective. Though he gave up just three hits, he matched a career high by walking five batters. He allowed three runs in his five frames, falling short of the six-inning, three-run standard for quality starts. The Sox have just three quality starts in their 12 games this year.

Carl Crawford‘s brutal start in Boston continued. He went 0-for-5 while making terrible contact (though he was victimized by a missed call at first base on what would have been an infield single), and he also appeared to pull up on what might have been a playable ball in the gap in left-center that became a game-tying double. His average now sits at .137.

–It was a bad game for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, both behind the plate and at the dish. He went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts (both looking) on fastballs, dropping his average for the year to .138. Eventually, he was lifted in the eighth inning for pinch-hitter Jed Lowrie (who delivered a bases-loaded infield single). As for Saltalamacchia’s defensive work, not only was he the signal caller for the Sox’ brutal pitching outing, but he also had poor technical execution on a wild pitch by Jenks, coming out of his stance too early and letting the ball scoot under his glove, and the Jays ran wild against him, swiping four bags.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Kevin Youkilis hit his first homer of the season, pounding a Brett Cecil pitch into the center field bleachers. He pushed his average up to .200, and he also collected a pair of walks (his 14th and 15th of the year, among the major league leaders). Overall, he has shown signs in recent games that he is starting to emerge from the funk in which he started the year.

Dustin Pedroia also went deep, giving the Sox their second multi-homer game of the year (and first since April 2). The Sox had entered the game tied for the fewest multi-homer games in the majors.

Jed Lowrie continued his noteworthy contributions despite his inconsistent presence in the starting lineup. He had a tremendous at-bat as a pinch-hitter in the eighth, which ended with a run-scoring infield single. He is now hitting .471 in the young season.

The Yankees lost, so the Sox remained “just” five games back in the division.

Read More: Blue Jays, bobby jenks, carl crawford, Clay Buchholz
Red Sox vs. Blue Jays Live Blog 04.15.11 at 7:27 pm ET
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