12-7: Ortiz and Ramirez engineer another comeback, 5-3

In their second game at home against the Texas Rangers, the Red Sox looked pretty weak against Texas starter Jason Jennings, managing just two runs in six innings. Jon Lester pitched just barely well enough to keep Boston in it, surrendering 10 hits and 2 walks, but just 3 runs with the help of some timely defense and some good old-fashioned good luck. The bullpen was strong, holding the line, which allowed for the heroics of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in the bottom of the 8th against Joaquin Benoit. Jonathan Papelbon pitched a scoreless 9th for his 6th save of the year to seal the 5-3 victory.

Josh Hamilton hit a solo Monster shot in the first, but the Sox were able to retake the lead when sparkplug Jacoby Ellsbury doubled to lead off the bottom of the inning, and Dustin Pedroia reached on a sacrifice bunt attempt due to a bad throw to first by Jennings. Ortiz grounded into a double play, scoring Ellsbury to tie it. Then Manny walked, and Kevin Youkilis doubled him home to give Boston the lead and extending his personal hitting streak to 8 games. It didn’t last long, however, as Texas tied it in the 2nd and went ahead in the 3rd. It would remain 3-2 until the bottom of the 8th.

Lester came out in the first inning showing some improved velocity on his fastball. He was clocked as high as 95 mph, though I doubt that particular reading. But he was pretty consistent with his mechanics, and was able to throw it at about 93 mph. He kept his 76 mph curveball down and was able to throw it for strikes today, but he seemed to be overthrowing the 90 mph cut fastball a lot, especially early. He was able to work through 106 pitches, and threw 72 strikes, which is very encouraging; his problem has been too much nibbling at the corners.

I think he does need to pitch to contact more in general, because he is just not a big strikeout pitcher at this point in his career. If he tightens up his location, that could change, as he has good tools in his arsenal. But it’s more important that he eat a lot of innings at this point. The Rangers’ went 10-22 on balls in play against Lester tonight, which is a very high .455 BABIP. Teams won’t do that every time out, not on this defense. Trust your stuff, Jon!

A good job by the bullpen tonight, though Mike Timlin gave up two hits. Javier Lopez (1-0) was brought in to face Hamilton with two gone in the 8th, and got him to fly out on one 88 mph belt-high meatball. Hamilton took it for a ride, but Ellsbury caught it. Lopez was credited with the victory, which is kind of ludicrous. But whatever.

Bottom of the 8th, a one-out double by Pedroia followed by a sharp ground ball by Papi into the shift. Ian Kinsler dives and almost gets to it, but it deflects into the outfield, and Pedey scores. Then Manny does what he’s done a lot this season, jacking one well over the Monster to make it 5-3.

Paps finished it off for save number 6, and didn’t fan anyone for the first time this year. Considering he had fanned 16 in just 8 IP before tonight, though, I’m not really worried.


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