June 28, 2013

Lester a Red Sox ace again

The lefty who's been struggling of late looks good and calms fears over a late-inning hip flare-up.

The Associated Press

BOSTON - With one ace already on the disabled list, the Boston Red Sox weren't taking any chances when their other star pitcher landed awkwardly after a pitch late in the game.

Dustin Pedroia
click image to enlarge

Dustin Pedroia heads to the dugout to a big welcome from his teammates after his two-run homer highlighted a seven-run second inning that gave the Red Sox all they would need to take Thursday’s opening game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

The Associated Press

Jon Lester
click image to enlarge

John Lester heads to the dugout after hip pain forced him off the mound during Thursday’s victory over Toronto at Fenway Park.

The Associated Press

FRIDAY'S GAME

WHO: Toronto Blue Jays (Johnson 1-2) at Boston Red Sox (Webster 0-2)

WHEN: 7:10 p.m.

TELEVISION: NESN

By that point, though, Jon Lester had more than done his job.

Lester pitched into the eighth inning before jamming his right hip and leaving the game, and Dustin Pedroia homered during a seven-run second to help the Red Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays 7-4 in the opener of a four-game series Thursday night.

"I slipped a little bit. I guess the doctors were kind of calling it a little jammed hip, a type of zinging sensation down my leg." Lester said. "It just didn't feel normal and like I said, at that point in the game, especially with that offense -- they can score some runs in a hurry -- so there's no point in trying to be a hero. We've got a long way to go the rest of the season."

Toronto, which reeled off 11 straight wins this month, had won 12 of its past 14 games and 15 of 19 to close within 61/2 games of the AL East-leading Red Sox.

Then the Blue Jays ran into Lester.

The left-hander retired 10 straight to begin the game and didn't allow a hit until the fifth. But he exited the game with a 7-2 lead after giving up consecutive singles to start the eighth and running the count to 3-0 on Emilio Bonifacio.

Manager John Farrell came darting out of the dugout as the infielders crowded around Lester. Moments later, Lester walked off the field and Junichi Tazawa came on in relief.

"The final pitch that he threw, his landing foot kind of gave way and he jammed his hip," Farrell said. "Given where we were in the ballgame and the number of pitches he had thrown, he clearly had done his job and we weren't going to take any chances."

It was quite a scare for Red Sox Nation.

Clay Buchholz, who is 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA, hasn't pitched since June 8 because of neck stiffness and a sore shoulder.

Lester, however, doesn't think he will miss any starts.

"I actually feel fine now," he said. "Walking off the field, it just kind of stays with you for a little while, and then after the docs looked at me, I feel normal."

The Blue Jays capitalized when Lester left the game, cutting the deficit to 7-4 on a sacrifice fly by Jose Reyes and a groundout by Jose Bautista.

Koji Uehara preserved the lead with a perfect ninth for his third save.

Lester (8-4) was charged with four runs on five hits with five strikeouts and three walks in winning for just the second time in his last eight starts.

"I feel that responsibility to go out there and save the bullpen and that's what we tried to do tonight," Lester said. "Obviously would have liked to give (Tazawa) a little better situation than what he came into, but he kept us with the lead and that's the main thing."

After starting the season 6-0 with a 2.72 ERA through his first nine starts, Lester struggled over his past seven, going 1-4 with a 7.30 ERA.

He returned to form just in time to face baseball's best team in June -- and Boston's bats provided him all the support he needed.

The Red Sox jumped all over Chien-Ming Wang, tagging the righty for seven runs while batting around in the second. Wang (1-1) lasted just 12/3 innings, allowing all seven runs on six hits with two walks and no strikeouts.

(Continued on page 2)

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