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Wednesday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Jon Lester vs. Alfredo Simon 09.28.11 at 1:00 pm ET
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In their last scheduled game of the regular season, the Red Sox start Jon Lester with the hope that their ace can deliver in what is essentially a must-win game for Boston Wednesday night. Lester is facing a team that he has had immense success against over the course of his career in the Orioles.

Baltimore will start Alfredo Simon, who will look to pick up his first win in seven starts and play the part of spoiler.

Tied with the Red Sox in the wild card standings are the Rays, who are facing a Yankees team that has already clinched first place in the AL East. David Price will start for Tampa Bay Wednesday, while New York had yet to designate a starter at 1 p.m.

Lester (15-9, 3.49 ERA) has struggled throughout September, along with the rest of the Boston starters. The left-hander is 1-3 with a 5.96 ERA in the month, and he was lit up by the Yankees in his last start on Saturday for eight runs in 2 2/3 innings. But Lester has owned Baltimore throughout his career, posting a 14-0 record with a 2.33 ERA.

The current Orioles lineup has just one home run in 190 combined plate appearances against Lester. Matt Wieters is hitting .348 off of the Boston starter in his career, but he has just one extra-base hit.

Simon (4-9, 4.85 ERA) was converted to a starter in July and has had an up-and-down season since. His worst month has been September, in which Simon is 0-2 with a 6.52 ERA. The right-hander was solid in his last outing, when he pitched eight innings and gave up three runs in a no-decision against Detroit.

In one start against Boston this year, Simon surrendered three runs in 4 2/3 innings. He has not faced any Red Sox batter more than six times in his career. Jacoby Ellsbury has a double and a triple off of Simon in three career plate appearances.

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Read More: Alfredo Simon, Jon Lester,
Lester: ‘It’s not a good time to have this stretch’ 09.24.11 at 9:00 pm ET
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NEW YORK — In its own right, the outing was disconcerting enough for the Red Sox. At a time when his team is trying to cling to a postseason berth, Jon Lester delivered one of the worst outings of his career.

The left-hander pitched just 2 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of 2011. In that brief time on the mound, he permitted as many runs (8, a season-high) and hits (8) as he recorded outs in the Sox’ 9-1 loss to the Yankees.

It continued a stretch in which the pitcher has struggled at a time when his team needed him. He has lost his last three starts (the second longest stretch of consecutive losing starts in his career), averaging fewer than five innings per outing while getting tagged for 16 runs in 13 2/3 innings (10.54 ERA).

The pitcher could offer no explanation for his recent string of poor outings, though he did suggest that health was not an issue.

‘€œI’€™m not tired. I’€™m not hurt. There’€™s nothing wrong with me. I wouldn’€™t go out there if there was something wrong with me. It’€™s nothing physically,’€ said Lester. ‘€œIt’€™s just one of those deals. I’€™ve been getting my [butt] kicked lately. It’€™s not a good time to have this stretch.

‘€œI stink. If I had the answer, it wouldn’€™t happen. You go 32-0 every year if you had the answer of why you suck sometimes. It just happens. It’€™s part of baseball,’€ he added. ‘€œTeams go through stretches like this like we’€™re going. Pitchers go through stretches like I’€™m doing. It’€™s the name of the game. Other times, you throw the ball right down the middle and it gets popped up. That’€™s baseball. You make a pitch on the black, and it gets hit 400 feet.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jon Lester, Yankees,
Friday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Jon Lester vs. Freddy Garcia 09.23.11 at 8:03 am ET
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Before the season, a late-September series against the Yankees seemed to be  a marquee matchup between two teams battling for the division title. Yet because of a September collapse, the Red Sox search for wins in the series to keep the surging Rays at bay while the division-winning Yankees will attempt to prepare their team for the postseason.

The first game of the series features left-hander Jon Lester against Yankees hurler Freddy Garcia. Lester looks to return to form after rough outings in three of his last four starts.

Like the Red Sox, Lester has struggled in September. After going 14-6 with a 3.09 ERA from April through August, Lester is 1-3 while giving up nine runs on 23 hits through 23 innings. Oddly enough, Yankee Stadium may be just the place for Lester to rediscover his rhythm. Lester is 2-0 at Yankee Stadium this season and is 2-1 with a 4.30 ERA against the Yankees this season.

Derek Jeter is the only Yankee hitting above .300 in his career against Lester. In 51 plate appearances against Lester, Jeter is hitting .340 with two RBIs, three walks and 10 strikeouts.

Garcia is winless against the Red Sox this season, going 0-2 in four starts with a 6.92 ERA. In his last three starts, Garcia has not pitched well, allowing 15 earned runs in 12 1/3 inning while walking six, striking out eight and allowing six home runs. Despite Garcia’s struggles on the mound, the Yankee offense helped New York to a 2-1 record in those three games.

Multiple Red Sox batters have enjoyed success against Garcia throughout their careers. Marco Scutaro is hitting .533 against the right-hander in 15 plate appearances, touching Garcia up for a double, two triples and an RBI. Carl Crawford also hits well against Garcia, batting .304 with a double, a triple, a home run and two RBIs. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: freddy garcia, Jon Lester,
Closing Time: Red Sox bats stifled by Tampa Bay pitching 09.17.11 at 7:26 pm ET
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In what comes as no surprise to those familiar with Tampa Bay’s pitching staff, the Red Sox could not get their bats going against the Rays’ pitching staff and lost, 4-3, on Saturday afternoon.

The Rays did most of their damage early, roughing Red Sox starter Jon Lester up for two runs in the first inning before adding to their total with a run in the third and a run in the fifth.

The Red Sox pitchers did their part. Despite his difficult first inning, Lester calmed down and put in seven innings of work before the Red Sox before handing the game over to Daniel Bard and Franklin Morales, both of whom did not allow a run.

But in the end, the Red Sox were simply unable to take advantage of multiple opportunities to mount a come-back and lost their second game of the series.

Here’s a look at what else went wrong for the Red Sox Saturday.

What went wrong for the Red Sox

– The Red Sox were a terrible 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position on Saturday. Two of their three runs scored on sacrifices. Dustin Pedroia‘s three-pitch strikeout at the end of the seventh inning with the tying run on third was an especially painful moment for the Red Sox.
– For the second consecutive game, the Red Sox found themselves facing a 2-0 deficit entering their first at-bats of the day by virtue of a two-run home run. Unlike Friday’€™s game, the Red Sox did not respond in the bottom of the first with two runs of their own and spent the entire game trying to start a come-back.
– The Red Sox struggled to find a way to quiet Desmond Jennings, who scored twice in each of the last five games between the Red Sox and Rays. Jennings reached base in the first inning on Saturday via a four-pitch walk and scored on Ben Zobrist‘€™s home run. In the third inning, Jennings doubled, advanced to third on a fielders’€™ choice and scored on a wild pitch.
Jacoby Ellsbury stole his first base since Aug. 26 with a swipe of second in the fifth inning, but he promptly ended the inning when he was caught stealing third with two outs in the inning.

What went right for the Red Sox

– Lester was able to go deep into the game, pitching seven innings and allowing four runs on five hits.

– Bard had a clean eighth inning for the second consecutive night, ending a string of three bad appearances. The velocity on Bard’s fastball had dropped to the 94-96 mile per hour range while he was struggling, but on Saturday it was back up to his more typical 98 miles per hour.

Mike Aviles, starting in place of the injured Kevin Youkilis, delivered a big hit for the second night in a row. Aviles’€™ double in the third inning drove in Carl Crawford, cutting the Rays lead to 3-1. Aviles scored later in the inning on a sacrifice fly, bringing the Red Sox within a run of the Rays.

Adrian Gonzalez flashed the leather a few times on Saturday. In the fourth inning, Gonzalez went up for a ball off Casey Kotchman‘€™s bat and started a double play to end the inning after Lester walked two consecutive batters. In the sixth inning, Gonzalez made a diving grab to his right, robbing Kotchman of extra bases and ending the inning.

Josh Reddick got his first hit of the series, a single to right in the fourth inning

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Daniel Bard, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester
Saturday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Jon Lester vs. Jeff Niemann at 3:53 am ET
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In the third game of a pivotal four-game series against the Rays, the Red Sox will send Jon Lester to the mound on Saturday at Fenway Park. Lester will try to make up for a poor start against the Rays in his last outing, while Tampa Bay’s Jeff Niemann will look to replicate the success he had against the Sox on Aug. 16, when he threw a complete game.

Lester (15-7, 3.07 ERA) lasted just four innings last Sunday against the Rays, allowing four runs in a loss. It was tied for his shortest outing of the season and gave the Rays the series sweep.

Besides that start, however, Lester has been excellent lately, recording a 2.63 ERA over his last 10 outings. The left-hander has been fanning batters at a good clip as well, striking out 59 in those games.

Lester has a 4.00 ERA in three starts against Tampa Bay this season, going 1-2 in those games. Johnny Damon is hitting .300 with two home runs and seven RBIs against Lester. The Rays lineup as a unit has .245 average against the Boston starter.

Niemann (10-7, 3.97 ERA) has had a solid year for Tampa Bay in the middle of the rotation. After struggling against Texas on Sept. 6, when he gave up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings, Niemann rebounded to pitch 7 2/3 innings while giving up only two runs against the Orioles in a win on Monday.

Niemann has been especially good against the Red Sox this season, allowing two runs in two starts (17 innings). That includes that complete game on Aug. 16, when Niemann allowed two runs and struck out 10 in the win over Boston. The current Red Sox lineup has been dismal against Niemann, hitting .130 off the Rays starter collectively. Conor Jackson is the only Boston player hitting above .200 off of Niemann.

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Read More: jeff niemann, Johnny Damon, Jon Lester,
Closing Time: Red Sox’ September swoon continues as Rays finish sweep 09.11.11 at 5:09 pm ET
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It was one thing for the rest of the Red Sox rotation to fall short. At this point, expectations were already measured for the likes of John Lackey, Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller and Kyle Weiland.

But Jon Lester was another matter. He is the rock of the Red Sox rotation, and at a time when the rest of the team had been sagging, the left-hander had been willing to shoulder the load to give the Sox at least one day out of five when they would feature reliable starting pitching. He had gone five straight starts in which he’d allowed no more than one earned run, tied for the longest such run by a Sox left-hander since at least 1919.

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But on Sunday, that changed. In the course of a 43-pitch first inning, the Rays pushed three runs across the plate. They would tack on one more against Lester, who lasted just four innings, before continuing to do damage against the Boston bullpen in an eventual 9-1 smackdown.

And so, the Red Sox lost their buoy. The Rays and James Shields concluded their three-game sweep over the Sox, and suddenly the Sox’ safe passage into the postseason seemed dramatically imperiled.

On Aug. 7, the Rays were 11 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East, and 10 games behind the Yankees in the wild card standings. Now, with their three-game sweep in Tampa Bay, the Rays have slashed their deficit to the Sox — now in the wild card race rather than the division standings — to 3½ games, punctuating a stretch in which the Rays have gone 22-10 and the Sox have stumbled to a 15-18 mark.

Tampa Bay outscored Boston by a combined 22-8 score, and the Sox enter Monday’s off-day having lost five straight, 7-of-8, and 9-of-11. They are in their most pronounced state of crisis since their 0-6 start in April.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

— The Rays worked over Lester as never before. For the first time in his career, on a day when he threw more than 100 pitches, the left-hander could not work his way into the fifth inning. Instead, he allowed four runs on eight hits in just four innings, striking out two and walking three. In the first inning alone, the three earned runs permitted by Lester matched his total yield from his previous 30 innings.

— Lester’s dreadful outing continued one of the worst turns of the rotation by the Red Sox in years. The team has now had five straight starts of no more than five innings, the longest such stretch by the team since Sept. 21-25, 2001, when Casey Fossum, Derek Lowe, Hideo Nomo, David Cone and Frank Castillo taxed the Sox bullpen.

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Read More: Dustin Pedroia, james shields, Jon Lester, marco scutaro
Red Sox-Rays Sunday matchups: Jon Lester vs. James Shields at 11:23 am ET
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The Red Sox have received exactly one quality start in their last seven games. That came on Sept. 6, when Jon Lester delivered seven dominating shutout innings in the Sox’ last win.

Now, a team that is spinning through a 1-6 stretch and that has last four straight is hearing footsteps or whatever sound it is that the motion of Rays makes. Tampa Bay has crept within 4½ games of the Sox in the wild card after taking two straight games to start the series, and the Sox will ask their ace to clot the wound.

Lester is 15-6 with a 2.93 ERA, 167 strikeouts and 63 walks in 173 innings this year. Against the Rays, he is 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA, 16 strikeouts and three walks in 14 innings. He is 10-4 with a 3.65 ERA against Tampa Bay in his career.

Among members of Tampa Bay’s lineup, Johnny Damon (.296, .863 OPS) has enjoyed the most success against Lester, followed by Evan Longoria (.256, .822). But on the whole, Lester has had his way with members of the Rays, who own a collective .222 average and .672 OPS against him. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: james shields, Jon Lester, tampa bay rays,
Closing Time: Red Sox bats unload while Jon Lester dominates in win over Blue Jays 09.06.11 at 10:18 pm ET
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After dropping four of their last five games — and coming off an excruciating extra-inning loss on Monday — the Red Sox certainly needed a game like this. They scored four runs in the first inning against Toronto rookie left-hander Luis Perez, added two more in the second, another two in third, three in the fourth and ‘€¦ you get the idea.

All told, the Red Sox piled up 14 runs on 20 hits including a season-high nine doubles and breezed through a 14-0 demolition of the Blue Jays in Toronto.

Just as importantly for a team whose pitching staff has been battered and abused over the last few days, Jon Lester pitched an absolute gem.

One start removed from a labored five-inning outing against the Yankees that saw him throw 114 pitches, Lester was brilliant allowing just three hits over seven innings while tying a season-high with 11 strikeouts. Staked to a big early lead, Lester never gave Toronto a chance to get back in the game and struck out five of six batters between the first and third innings.

Even with the offensive outburst, Lester’s start came at the right time as the bullpen has logged 32 2/3 innings over the last five days prior to last night and had to work seven innings in relief of Josh Beckett on Monday. Here’s what else went right on a night when the Sox scored a couple of touchdowns worth of runs.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Marco Scutaro has feasted on Toronto pitching this season and after Tuesday’s 4-for-5 he is now hitting just a tick below .500 (15-for-31) against his former team. This was Scutaro’s third four-hit game of the season and not surprisingly, two have come against Toronto (the other was against the Yankees). Scutaro also seems to have benefited from receiving some time off over the weekend. Since returning to the lineup he has seven hits in 12 at-bats and has reached base nine times in 14 plate appearances.

– As good as Adrian Gonzalez is, it still doesn’t hurt to get lucky every now and again and after scuffling through a stretch where he’s had five hits in his last 28 at-bats, Gonzalez could use a little luck. His harmless-looking pop fly to left in the first inning fell in for a double in front of Eric Thames, which helped open the door to the Sox’ four-run opening frame. Gonzalez’s night continued to get better. He smoked an RBI single back up the middle and poked a ball to the opposite field through the shift for another RBI hit in the fifth. Whenever Gonzalez uses the whole field, it’s a sign that the first baseman is getting locked in.

–  Lost in the blowout was some fine baserunning by Jacoby Ellsbury. In the first inning, Ellsbury hustled home from second on Gonzalez’ bloop double, arriving at home plate just ahead of the tag. In the next inning, Ellsbury took third on a hotshot smash to third and scored on another Gonzalez hit. Both plays showed off Ellsbury’s speed, but both were also the right reads and aggressive plays by the Sox catalyst.

After going 2-for-5, Darnell McDonald has finally raised his average over .200. Speaking of right field, Josh Reddick cracked his first home run since Aug. 12 in his only at-bat in the eighth. With J.D. Drew still out and Conor Jackson recovering from slamming into the outfield wall, the incumbent right fielders need to continue to make their case for playing time.

– The Blue Jays didn’t employ a shift against David Ortiz in his first at-bat and he banged a single through the right side that would have been swallowed up by the normal defense used against him. Toronto adjusted later in the game and Ortiz blasted two doubles off the center field wall. For good measure he added a bouncing single to left ‘€¦ that took perfect advantage of the shift.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Dustin Pedroia was the only member of the starting lineup to not get a hit and he took his second consecutive 0-for-5 against Toronto. Pedroia is now hitless in his last 13 at-bats.

Carl Crawford had an RBI double and Jarrod Saltalamacchia went deep for his 15th home run of the season, but they combined to go 0-for-7 with four strikeouts in their other plate appearances.

Read More: David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, marco scutaro
Tuesday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Jon Lester vs. Luis Perez at 12:17 pm ET
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Losers of four out of their last five games, the Red Sox send their ace to the mound Tuesday night to stop the team’s slide further out of first place in the AL East. Jon Lester will look to get Boston a much-needed win vs. a Toronto team hitting just .183 against the left-hander in 2011, while newly minted starter Luis Perez will try to bounce back from a shaky previous start.

After the injury to Josh Beckett in Monday’s loss to Toronto, Lester becomes even more valuable to Boston’s reeling pitching staff. Erik Bedard‘s left knee remains a question mark and is forcing him to miss his next start, while John Lackey‘s struggles have been well-documented.

But Lester (14-6, 3.05 ERA) has been excellent, especially over his last month of work. In his last 10 starts, dating back to June 30, Lester has posted a 2.04 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings. While it was not pretty against the Yankees in his last start when he threw 114 pitches in just five innings, Lester still only allowed 0ne run.

Save for one poor start on May 10 (5 1/3 innings, 5 earned runs), Lester has been lights out against Toronto this season. In his previous two starts against the Blue Jays, Lester gave up just one run in 12 innings. The current Toronto lineup has a .225 combined batting average against Lester in his career. Jose Bautista has three home runs and six RBIs in 43 plate appearances against Lester.

In his first year in the big leagues, Perez (3-2, 3.77 ERA) has been solid for Toronto. Recently converted to a starter, Perez will make just his fourth big league start in Tuesday’s game. The 26-year-old lefty struggled in his last start against Baltimore, surrendering five runs in five innings to the lowly Orioles.

The current Red Sox lineup is hitting a combined .344 in 36 plate appearances against Perez, who has only appeared in relief situations against Boston. Kevin Youkilis has one home run and three RBIs against Perez.

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Read More: Jon Lester, Luis Perez,
Closing Time: Red Sox relievers roughed up in 4-2 loss to Yankees 09.01.11 at 11:33 pm ET
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Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard are indeed human.

The pair of Red Sox relievers had a combined 22 consecutive scoreless innings ‘€“ 12 1/3 for Aceves, 9 2/3 for Bard – entering Thursday night, but then the duo allowed three runs between them in the seventh inning en route to a 4-2 Yankees win at Fenway Park.

After striking out Nick Swisher to start the seventh, Aceves, the usually ultra-reliable longman in the Boston bullpen, walked Andruw Jones in an epic 14-pitch at-bat and then plunked rookie DH Jesus Montero before handing the ball over to Bard in a 2-1 game. The fireballing setup man then allowed a long double to right-center off the bat of Russell Martin that scored both inherited runners and gave New York a 3-2 lead. The Yankees extended that lead in the next at-bat when pinch-hitter Eric Chavez singled in Martin.

Aceves earned the loss, his first since May 31 and his first as a reliever since May 26, 2009 when he was with the Yankees. He moves to 9-2 on the year and 23-3 in 103 career games.

The bullpen implosion spoiled a strong, albeit short, pitching performance from Jon Lester (5 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K). Lester’€™s outing was his second-shortest of the year ‘€“ a four-inning start on July 5 was cut short by a lat strain ‘€“ after he was lifted prior to the sixth, having thrown 113 pitches.

The blame for the loss doesn’€™t fall squarely on the shoulders of the Red Sox pitching though. The Boston offense couldn’€™t scrape together more than just a pair of runs against Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett (5 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) who was coming off an August in which he had an ERA of 11.91 for the month.

Adrian Gonzalez had a chance to win or tie the game in the ninth inning with the bases loaded and two outs but instead struck out against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera to end the contest.

The game lasted four hours and 21 minutes, making it the longest nine-inning game of the season for the Red Sox. (The Yankees played one nine-inning contest last week in 4:31.)

With the win, the Yankees (82-53) won their first series against Red Sox this season(83-53) and move half a game behind their rivals in the AL East standings. Boston owns the season series 11-4 in 2011 with he two teams set to play three more times in New York from Sept. 23-25.

Here’€™s what went wrong (and right) in the Red Sox loss:

WHAT WENT WRONG

-Aceves hit two batters on the night, Montero and Mark Teixeira who later left the game with a bruised right knee because of the HBP. Aceves has now hit 11 batters this season, which puts him in a tie for third-most in the American League. Every AL pitcher with more than 10 plunks has at least 136 innings pitched. Aceves has only 90 1/3 frames under his belt in 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alfredo aceves, Daniel Bard, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia
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