Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lester Goes 8 Strong Innings En Route to Win in Chicago

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                                                                                                                                     Sports Illustrated

Red Sox 10 White Sox 2
Winning Pitcher: Jon Lester (11-4)
Losing Pitcher: Phil Humber (8-7) 

Jon Lester looked great for most of the game tonight against the White Sox, making only two mistakes against the lineup that typically gives him trouble, and he was forced to pay for both mistakes. After being knocked around for seven runs in five and a third innings on May 30th against this same Chicago lineup, Lester came out tonight at pitched 8 innings, allowing just two runs on four hits and a walk, while striking out eight. This is the first time Lester has gone eight innings since he did so in back-to-back starts in mid-June. It is also the first time he's struck out eight batters since that same two start period. Lester was extremely efficient in the game, throwing 98 pitches in his eight innings, and never throwing more than 18 in a single inning. In particularly, he was pounding the strike zone with his fastball and cutter. He threw those pitches 70 times (maxing out at 95, settling in at 93-94, per Pitch FX) and threw them for strikes 55 times, for a 79% strike rate. Also, his fastball and cutter had linear weights of -1.3 and -1.6, respectively. However, he did mislocate that fastball a couple of times, resulting in solo home runs from Paul Konerko and Gordon Beckham. Although Lester only only created six whiffs all night, he recorded 14 of his 24 outs by either groundball or strikeout, which led to a terrific outing for the Red Sox ace.
The Red Sox offense, meanwhile, got going with a big time fourth inning, in which they scored four runs. The first time through the lineup, White Sox pitcher looked great, blowing fastballs by everybody and mixing in the timely curve and throwing off everybody's timing. Through the first three innings, Boston had yet to record a hit, and Marco Scutaro was the only man to reach, doing so via a walk. In the fifth, it all fell apart for Humber. The inning got underway as Crawford led off with a grounder getting through the right side. On the next pitch, he broke towards second and took the bag. On the throw, Alexei Ramirez decided to do some sort of falling action away from the bag, and the throw ended up in center field, allowing Crawford to reach third. Jarrod Saltalamacchia then put the Sox on the board with a double to the right-center gap. After a Josh Reddick bunt single surprised everyone and put men on first and third, Scutaro hit a long fly out to right, allowing Salty to score the game's second run. The Red Sox would score two more runs in the inning on a Dustin Pedroia sac fly and Kevin Youkilis base hit to take a commanding 4-0 lead, considering Lester's dominance on the bump.

Quick Hits
  • It was a pretty wild night for Adrian Gonzalez offensively. First of all, the self-described "slowest man in baseball" was able to leg out two infield singles. The first one probably should have been an error as Beckham tried to bare hand a softly hit grounder to him, and the second was stopped from making it to center field by a great diving stop from Alexei Ramirez. Then, in the 9th, Gonzalez hit an absolute bomb to right field, his first home run since July 7th, the longest drought on the team amongst starters.
  • Kevin Youkilis followed Gonzalez's bomb with a solo blast of his own. The long ball was Youk's 15th on the year, giving the Red Sox a ridiculous five players with at least 15 homers on the day before the trade deadline.
  • David Ortiz was the only Red Sox player not to record a hit in the game. After the 0-5 game, he is now just 1 for his last 16, and hasn't gotten an extra base hit since the first game of the Kansas City series.
  • The White Sox have the best defense in baseball (by fielding %) and they flashed some serious leather tonight. In the second inning, third baseman Brent Morel made two consecutive diving plays. Alexei Ramirez and Paul Konerko also made plays worthy of Web Gem nominations tonight.

The Red Sox and White Sox will play their rubber match tomorrow afternoon at 2:10 PM ET. Boston will send Andrew Miller (4-1 5.45) to the mound against Chicago's Mark Buehrle (8-5 3.22).

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