15-8: Short-staffed Sox come up short, 6-4

The latest casualty on the long list of flu-ridden Red Sox is Daisuke Matsuzaka. He was a late scratch form yesterday’s start, and lefty Jon Lester had to make his first start ever on short rest. While it was not a pretty performance, it was enough to keep us in the game. Reliever Craig Hansen (0-1) was called up from Pawtucket, and pitched fairly well for 1 2/3 innings, but ultimately was pinned for the loss, as he gave up the go-ahead home run to Casey Kotchman in the 6th inning. Given the Sox’ recent track record, I was almost expecting another late-inning comeback, but the Los Angeles bullpen shut the door on this game, 6-4.

Lester had command of his fastball early, and was throwing 91-93 mph, mixing in his cutter at 87 mph. He gave up two home runs to Gary Matthews, Jr. on mistake fastballs right down the middle. He became a little more erratic as the game went on, and didn’t get some close strike calls in the second inning; I wonder if that didn’t make him try to get more of the plate than he normally would. A lot of the hits came off of good pitches, so give the Angels lineup some credit. They managed 9 hits and 2 walks over Lester’s five innings of work, which left it at 4-4 after 5 innings. Not bad, as he threw only 80 pitches. Lester knew he had to be economical, and he was.

Jon Garland (3-2) turned in a typical performance for him, going 6 innings and allowing four runs on 8 hits and 2 walks. He pitches to contact, and was able to get 11 ground balls, which helped him a lot. The Angels turned two double plays which stranded runners in the 5th and the 8th. David Ortiz went yard in the 5th, pulling one out of the park; hopefully that’s a sign that Papi’s getting his timing down. We could use some more offense out of him right now.

Hansen came in for the 6th and worked well, throwing a hard 97-98 mph fastball and 88-90 mph slider. He was pretty amped up, it looked like, and elevated his pitches quite a bit, which allowed Kotchman to take him out of the park with two outs. The home run came on a fastball right down the pipe. The key for him will be to keep the slider down and locate the fastball inside and out.

Justin Speier, Scot Shields and Francisco Rodriguez finished it out for the Angels, and the only real threat in the 8th was set down when Jed Lowrie grounded into an inning-ending double play.

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