3-1: Lester, bullpen shutout A’s, 5-0

It’s only April 3rd, but already 2008 has been full of ups and downs for Jon Lester (1-1). Luckily for the Sox, yesterday was a pretty big up for him. Facing the Oakland Athletics for the second time in two starts, Lester tossed 6 2/3 shutout innings en route to his first win. He threw 53 of 94 pitches for strikes, allowing three hits and three walks. That’s great for Lester, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he was economical, as the Sox turned three key double plays in consecutive innings, which helped Lester a lot.

Jon LesterLester showcased his newfound velocity for 2008, including a four-seam fastball at 90-92 mph, a cutter coming in at 84-85 mph, and occasionally a curve at around 72-74 mph. He was clearly aiming for first pitch strikes early on, and he did do a better job of getting ahead of hitters, but he lacked a reliable out pitch yesterday; give him credit for battling through for that long. This is the probably what we can expect from Lester this season; if he can go 5-6 innings a start with an ERA under 4.50, we’re in pretty decent shape.

Boston needed a good outing from Lester, as the offense just couldn’t get it into gear against Oakland starter Rich Harden (again). He now owns a 0.82 ERA in 11 IP with 15 K over two starts against the Red Sox. They had plenty of opportunities, beginning with loading the bases with no outs in the very first inning, but Harden leveraged strikeouts and ground balls to work out of every jam for five innings. Manny Ramirez looked especially bad yesterday, going 0-4 with two strikeouts, leaving 8 men on (the Sox stranded 26 baserunners!).

It wasn’t until the 7th inning that the Sox dealt any damage, on a two-run blast by David Ortiz off lefty Alan Embree. It sure was good to see Big Papi back on the board, after an 0-for-11 start. The Sox padded the lead in the 8th on consecutive RBI singles by Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, and Jason Varitek added a solo shot in the 9th to cap it off. Narrowly missing a home run last game, Varitek appears to be locked in; he’s so much better at the plate when well-rested and healthy, even if he resembles a swinging gate up there. Considering the number of baserunners we had in this one (13 hits and 5 walks), I’m not terribly worried about our offense right now.

The bullpen performed well again today, though I must say I’m still not impressed with Bryan Corey yet. He needed 26 pitches to get his four outs, though he did get throw strikes and fanned out two men. Once Mike Timlin comes back, I think he loses his job. Manny Delcarmen had a strong outing, getting the 2-3-4 hitters in the ninth.

2 Responses to 3-1: Lester, bullpen shutout A’s, 5-0

  1. Pat says:

    I was hoping for more this year from Lester, but now I think I was being unreasonable. If he can reliably give us 6 innings with 2 runs all year long, he’s better than Shilling would’ve been. It will be enough as long as Beckett can give us 200 innings.

    I’m liking our chances.

  2. redsoxtalk says:

    Lester and Buchholz have a great deal of potential, but in general I think too many people expect them to be aces this year. That just isn’t the usual developmental pattern (of course there are exceptions). So the pitching maybe be hyped up a little bit, especially after last season.

    But I also think our defense gets too little recognition. Look at that infield; there’s not a weak link anywhere! And Crisp and Drew are potential Gold Glove types, with Ellsbury also very strong. That’s one reason the pitching staff is as successful, BTW.

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