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Red Sox’ frustration mounts as they’re swept away by Nationals 06.10.12 at 8:10 pm ET
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Bobby Valentine argues with umpire Al Porter after being ejected in the ninth inning of Sunday's game. (AP)

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was ejected for the second time this season Sunday, as frustration levels continued to rise for Boston as the Nationals finished off a three-game sweep with a 4-3 decision. The Red Sox now have lost six out of their last seven games and are two games under .500 (29-31). They’re in the basement of the AL East, six games behind division-leading Tampa Bay.

With the Sox trailing by a run and two outs in the ninth, Dustin Pedroia watched a 1-1 offering from Tyler Clippard sail by for a questionable called strike, which angered  Valentine. After an explosion from Valentine, home plate umpire Al Porter tossed the skipper. That led to an argument between Valentine and Porter, one that ended with Valentine leaving with an ovation from the Fenway crowd before Pedroia struck out to end the game.

After the game, Valentine had some more words for Porter and the umpiring crew, and said his frustration was a result of an accumulation of questionable calls throughout the game (including a pitch called a ball in the top of the ninth from Alfredo Aceves that Valentine thought was a strike). That call was followed by the game-winning RBI the Red Sox couldn’t recover from.

“We’ve got guys trying to bust their butt, battling their butt off. It’s just not right,” said Valentine, who was ejected for the 39th time as a big league manager. “Good umpires had a real bad series this series — real bad series. And it went one way. There should be a review.”

Asked if the questionable calls affected his players’ willingness to swing at pitches they normally wouldn’t bite on, Valentine offered a fundamental answer.

“The game is simple. Throw over the plate, call it a strike. Don’t throw it over the plate, call it a ball. It’s simple,” Valentine said. “That’s all anybody asks. And I know it’s been going on for 100 years, I’m not the first one to say it, but this was a pretty lousy series.”

Jon Lester delivered a strong performance, throwing seven innings and striking out a season-high nine hitters, but did not factor in the decision after Danny Espinosa’s fly ball to left bounced off the wall, just past the outstretched glove of Darnell McDonald. It scored two runs and gave the Nationals a 3-2 advantage in the seventh. It was Lester’s third consecutive no-decision — the Red Sox have lost three out of the last four games that the southpaw has started.

Lester wasn’t upset with missed calls like Valentine, but when asked about the mood in the clubhouse, the lefty vented about the overall struggles of the team.

“Everyone cares. Nobody’s been in this situation here, nobody’s lost before like this,” Lester said. “It’s all new. I’m sure I can speak for myself — it aggravates the piss out of me. I hate going out there and losing, regardless if I’m pitching or not. I know guys down there are frustrated and rightly so. It sounds cliché and I keep saying it, but we keep grinding out at-bats, we keep grinding out starts and something’s got to give.

“Our effort’s there, the will is there, the execution is there. Today, a 300-foot fly ball was the difference in the game. It’s bad luck in some games, it’s playing bad in other games, it’s pitching bad, it’s not playing good defense. Whatever it is, it just seems to come back and bite us in the butt. … The biggest thing is nobody in that clubhouse is giving up. Everybody shows up and prepares the same way [whether] we’re in first place by 10 games. We just have to keep sticking to that approach and it has to change.”

Read More: Bobby Valentine, Jon Lester, nationals, Red Sox
Sunday’s Red Sox-Nationals matchups: Jon Lester vs. Jordan Zimmermann at 7:26 am ET
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Jon Lester

Jon Lester will take the mound for his 13th start of the season Sunday afternoon when he faces the Nationals and Jordan Zimmermann at Fenway Park.

Lester (3-4, 4.64) has struggled at at Fenway Park, winning his last game at home on May 14 over the Mariners. Lester is 1-2 with a 6.42 ERA at Fenway.

Lester did not factor into the decision in his last two starts, giving up a combined six earned runs over 12 2/3 innings in a loss to Baltimore and a victory over Detroit.

The 28-year-old allowed two earned runs through six innings in his last start, an 8-6 loss to Baltimore. His last victory came on May 19 against the Phillies, when he pitched six innings of four-run ball in a 7-5 win.

The lefty hasn’t faced the Nationals since June 24, 2009. He allowed three runs through six innings en route to Boston’s 6-4 victory. All-time against Washington, Lester is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA. National Xavier Nady has faced Lester the most, taking the plate eight times against the lefty.

Zimmermann (3-5, 2.82) also didn’t factor in the decision of the last game he pitched, throwing six innings of two-run ball in Washington’s 7-6 victory over the Mets. His last victory also came against the Phillies, just three days after Lester defeated Philadelphia. In the Nationals’ 5-2 win, Zimmermann allowed one run in six innings.

The righty has only pitched against the Red Sox once in his career, a 9-3 victory over Boston on June 25, 2009. In that game Zimmermann lasted seven innings and allowed one earned run. Marlon Byrd had the most experience against Zimmermann, but following Byrd’s designation to the minors that honor falls to David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Nick Punto. The trio has faced Zimmermann three times each.

Zimmermann has been more effective on the road than at home this season. He’s 3-2 with a 2.25 ERA when the Nationals are away. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Jordan Zimmermann
Closing time: Orioles hand Sox extra disappointing loss 06.05.12 at 10:46 pm ET
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Dustin Pedroia struck out twice in his first game back for the Sox. (AP)

After a ninth inning comeback, the Red Sox fell to the Orioles, 8-6, in 10 innings Tuesday. Boston is now 13-15 at Fenway Park this season and 28-27 overall.

With the Sox trailing, 6-4, in the bottom of the ninth inning, Jarrod Saltalmacchia hit a two-run homer off Orioles closer Jim Johnson with two out to score David Ortiz and tie the game. The homer, which barely hit above the white line on the Green Monster, was his 11th of the season. The Orioles came back with two runs off Alfredo Aceves in the top of the 10th to regain the lead, and Johnson held on for the win.

Unearned runs were all the rage early on, as the Orioles took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning thanks to a botched double play by Mike Aviles. The Red Sox answered back in the bottom of the fifth with two runs, one of which was unearned due to a Steve Tolleson error.

The Orioles regained the lead in the top of the sixth inning when Matt Wieters doubled to lead off the inning and after being bunted over to third was driven home on a sacrifice fly from Steve Pearce. The Sox took their first lead of the game with a two-run sixth inning, but the O’s got to Jon Lester and Boston’s bullpen for three runs in the top of the seventh to give them the lead until Saltalamacchia’s homer.

Lester threw six innings before being allowing an Endy Chavez single and being pulled in the top of the seventh. He allowed four runs, two of which were earned, on eight hits and one walk with five strikeouts in the no decision. He was on the hook for the loss until the Sox’ ninth inning comeback.

Jason Hammel went five innings for the Orioles, allowing the two fifth-inning runs (only one of which was earned) and surrendering four hits and three walks while striking out seven.

Making his return from a jammed right thumb, second baseman Dustin Pedroia went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly, a walk and two strikeouts.

The Red Sox and Orioles will continue their three-game set Wednesday when Josh Beckett opposes Wei-Yin Chen.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

- Both of Baltimore’s third-inning runs came as a result of an Aviles error on what could have been a double play. With Chavez on first after reaching on an infield single, Robert Andino grounded a ball up the middle. Aviles had difficulty controlling it in the first place, but it was his toss to Pedroia covering second that was particularly sloppy. Chavez was safe at second and Andino easily reached first, and both would score later in the inning on RBIs from Adam Jones and Matt Weieters. Both of the runs were unearned for Lester.

- The Sox fell victim to a blown call in the top of the fifth inning. Aviles made a tough throw across his body to fire the ball to first. The ball beat Andino there, but first base umpire Jerry Layne called the runner safe. There was no argument from manager Bobby Valentine, but replays confirmed that the ball was in Gonzalez’ glove prior to Andino’s foot hitting the bag. While the call cost the Sox an out, it ultimately didn’t hurt them on the scoreboard, as J.J. Hardy grounded into a double play on the following at-bat and Adam Jones struck out swinging to end the inning.

- It was a rough night for Boston’ bullpen. After Lester was pulled in the top of the seventh with Chavez on first, Scott Atchison allowed consecutive singles to Andino and Hardy, allowing Chavez to score. Adam Jones then grounded into a fielder’s choice, but a wild pitch from Atchison allowed Jones to advance to second during the next at-bat. Atchison intentially walked Matt Wieters before exiting, but both Andino and Jones scored when Matt Albers allowed singles to Mark Reynolds and Pearce. The Sox got out of the inning when Ronny Paulino grounded into a double play.

- Ryan Sweeney left Jarrod Saltalamacchia stranded at third with the Sox trailing by a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. With two out, Saltalamacchia doubled off the left field wall and advanced to third during Sweeney’s at-bat thanks to a passed ball. Luis Ayala got Sweeney looking to end the inning and keep the Sox off the board in the seventh.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

- Reynolds gave the Red Sox their first run and set them up with two more runners in scoring position with a boneheaded play in the bottom of the fifth. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Scott Podsednik put down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners along. Reynolds opted to try too throw out Daniel Nava at third, and in addition to Nava beating the throw, Tolleson couldn’t handle the catch at third. The ball continued over by the Orioles’ bullpen, allowing Nava to score and Aviles and Podsednik to advance to third and second, respectively.

- Saltalamacchia’s homer in the bottom of the ninth gave Johnson his first blown save in 18 attempts this season. The play was given a second look on video review, but was upheld by the umpiring crew.

- Lester allowed a triple to the second batter of the game when Hardy hit one over the head of Scott Podsednik, but the lefty buckled down and struck out both Jones and Wieters to end the inning.

- It didn’t start out pretty, but Pedroia made his return to the lineup count at least once on Tuesday. The second baseman struck out swinging in both of his first two at-bats before driving in Aviles with a sacrifice fly to center in the bottom of the fifth inning. Pedroia, who hadn’t played since last Monday, was wearing a device on his right thumb to prevent him from reinjuring it.

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester,
Tuesday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Jon Lester vs. Jason Hammel at 9:28 am ET
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Jon Lester

Lefty Jon Lester will seek his fourth win on Tuesday night when he takes the mound against the Orioles and righty Jason Hammel.

The last start for Lester (3-4, 4.79 ERA) resulted in a 6-4 win for the Red Sox over the Tigers, although he didn’t get a decision. He lasted 6 2/3 innings, giving up four earned runs on 10 hits. His last victory came on May 19 against Philadelphia, when he pitched six innings of four-run baseball to help the Red Sox to a 7-5 victory.

Lester last faced Baltimore on May 6, giving up three earned runs over six innings as the Red Sox lost 6-4. He did not factor in the decision. All-time against the Orioles, Lester is 14-0 with a 2.47 ERA through 19 starts.

Of all the current Orioles, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters have faced Lester the most, with Jones logging 43 plate appearances against the lefty and Wieters recording 30. Jones is batting .216 off Lester with three RBIs and 14 strikeouts, while Weiters is hitting .321 with three RBIs and eight strikeouts

Hammel (6-2, 3.06) will also try to get back on the winning track when he faces the Red Sox. In his last start, he gave up four earned runs in a 6 2/3-inning effort against Toronto as the Orioles lost 4-1 to the Blue Jays. His last win came against the Royals on May 25, when he allowed no runs through six innings en route to an 8-2 Orioles win.

The 8-2 score is identical to the one the Orioles posted over the Red Sox the last time Hammel pitched against Boston on May 5. Hammel allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings to record the win. The 29-year-old is 1-1 against the Red Sox all-time, with a 5.24 ERA.

He’s faced a fair amount of Red Sox batters, none more than Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez has taken the plate 30 times against Hammel, knocking in four runs with a .231 batting average. David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia have the highest Boston batting averages against Hammel at .500 and .571, respectively, although they have faced Hammel less than 15 times each.

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Read More: Adam Jones, adrian gonzalez, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia
Wednesday’s Red Sox-Tigers matchups: Jon Lester vs. Drew Smyly 05.30.12 at 9:02 am ET
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Jon Lester

Jon Lester will be looking to get back to a .500 record as he matches up with Tigers lefty Drew Smyly at Fenway Park on Wednesday night.

Lester, who has a 3-4 record through 10 starts, has struggled to find consistency this season, a trend that is represented by his last three starts. Lester had his best start of the season three starts ago, pitching a complete game and only allowing a single earned run in a win over the Mariners. However, his four runs allowed through six innings against the Phillies, and then seven runs allowed through four innings against the Rays in his last start leave the Red Sox looking for more out of their ace.

While Lester has allowed two fewer home runs through his first 10 starts this season than in 2011, he has struck out 22 fewer hitters and allowed six more runs to this point in the season. Lester also had a 3.68 ERA through his first 10 starts last season, while he has a 4.72 ERA entering Wednesday night’s game.

The Tigers have some hitters who have had some success against Lester in the past, as Miguel Cabrera has a .600 OBP through his first 15 plate appearances against the Red Sox lefty. Johnny Peralta has also hit well against Lester, hitting two home runs and batting .316 in his 24 plate appearances.

Lester’s opponent is new to the league, but Smyly started the season relatively unfazed by the major league hitters he faced. Smyly didn’t allow more than two runs through his first six starts of his career, but he has cooled off a bit recently, allowing four runs in each of his past three starts.

Smyly, a second-round pick by the Tigers in the 2010 draft, has been limited to six innings per start so far in his rookie season, and he has averaged just more than 92 pitches per start. However, in his last three starts he has only reached a maximum of five innings in each start, and he was lifted after 69 pitches in his start on May 14 against the White Sox. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Drew Smyly, Jon Lester, Red Sox,
Jon Lester calls performance ‘unacceptable’ after serving up three homers 05.26.12 at 1:57 am ET
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Jon Lester allowed seven earned runs Friday. (AP)

The only ones who were satisfied with Jon Lester‘s performance Friday night were the guys who belted three homers off him, as the Rays used the long ball to rack up seven runs — all of which were earned — against the lefty in a 7-4 Tampa victory over the Sox.

Lester lasted just four innings for the Sox, with half of the six hits he allowed coming in the form of long balls to Matt Joyce (a third-inning grand slam), Elliot Johnson and Carlos Pena. The loss dropped the Red Sox to 22-23, marking the fourth time in as many tries this season that the Sox have failed to get above .500.

“It’s just one of those nights. Frustrating,” Lester said after the loss. “We worked so hard to get back to .500, playing good baseball, and I come out and have a performance like this. It’s unacceptable. I’ve got to be better. Plain and simple.”

The start was Lester’s second-shortest outing of the season and he tied his season-worst in earned runs from April 17′s 18-3 loss to the Rangers in which he allowed seven earned over two innings. Lester said he struggled to locate his pitches the entire night Friday, noting that the only at-bat in which he felt comfortable with his command came in the first inning when he struck out Luke Scott looking to end an eight-pitch first-inning.

“It wasn’t good,” he said of his performance. “I didn’t locate. I felt like I had to throw a ball in a keyhole. It was one of those nights. When I was missing, I was missing. When I was on the plate, I was in the middle. I didn’t make an adjustment. They did a good job of working counts, getting into hitters’ counts, and making me pay for my mistakes.”

The last time Lester allowed multiple homers in a game came last July 30when the White Sox got to him for two dingers, and the only other grand slam Lester had allowed in his career came in 2010. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia felt Lester wasn’t as bad as he looked, but credited the Rays for getting to the left.

“Obviously the numbers show it wasn’t great, but I thought he made some good pitches,” Saltalamacchia said. “Got squeezed on some big counts that we needed, but he made some good pitches. Not too many guys can hit a curve ball down and in like that out of the ball park. Pena’s curve ball was up and in. It was more of a defense swing, and he’s got pop. They did a good job of hitting the pitches whenever we missed.”

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Friday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Jon Lester vs. Alex Cobb 05.25.12 at 8:53 am ET
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Jon Lester

Following their first day off in 20 days, the Red Sox return home to Fenway Park on Friday night, when they will send Jon Lester to the hill to take on the Rays.

Lester is coming off consecutive starts in which he has grabbed victories, his latest coming against the Phillies last Saturday. Although he picked up the victory, the outing was subpar as he gave up four runs on eight hits, including a two-run home run to Freddy Galvis in the fourth inning that narrowed the Red Sox lead to 5-4. Lester settled down, however, and preserved the lead as the Red Sox ultimately won, 7-5.

Friday’s game against the Rays marks the fourth attempt for the Red Sox to climb past a .500 winning percentage this season. They have lost their previous three attempts, including a 4-1 loss to the Orioles on Tuesday. For Lester, it marks the first time he can claim a winning record in 2012 after a rocky start. He currently stands with a 3-3 record and a 3.95 ERA.

In 20 career starts against the Rays, Lester is 10-6 with a 3.91 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 122 innings. His last start vs. Tampa Bay came on Sept. 17, 2011, when he was saddled with a loss after pitching seven innings and giving up four runs on five hits. In 191 combined plate appearances against current Rays batters, he’s holding them to a .226 batting average. Arguably the most successful Rays batter vs. Lester is Carlos Pena, who has hit five home runs and batted .270 in 47 career plate appearances.

The Rays will counter with Alex Cobb, who won his only start of 2012 last Saturday in place of injured starter Jeff Niemann. He threw seven innings, struck out six and gave up two runs on six hits as the Rays beat the Braves, 6-2.

Cobb, who grew up a Red Sox fan (he was born in Boston but moved to Florida at the age of 2), will be making his first major league start at Fenway. The 24-year-old right-hander made his major league debut on May 1, 2011, but was sent back down to Triple-A Durham following that start. He went on to make eight more starts in 2011, and for his career, he owns a 3-2 record with a 3.42 ERA.

Cobb has never pitched against the Red Sox, but has faced Mike Aviles three times, striking him out once.

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Read More: Alex Cobb, Jon Lester,
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