Jon Lester Joins the 2010 Season with a Bang

Now that’s what I’m talking about! Welcome to the 2010 season Jon Lester, we’ve been expecting you.

I’ve seen him better on a few occasions but Jon Lester was simply dominant last night. You can nitpick that his “economy” wasn’t great and I guess that makes for a small deduction, but Lester basically did whatever he wanted to an overmatched Toronto lineup. Twenty-one swinging strikes (18 percent of all pitches), a good strike ratio, eleven Ks and as Buster Olney points out this morning, the Jays were 0-12 on inside pitches, with seven strikeouts. And that really is the key for Lester. Sure, he can get righties out by painting the outside or backdooring them with his curve, but Lester is at his best when he is driving that cutter inside. And when he gets some good downward tilt on his slider, you can turn out the lights because hitters have no shot.

Two nights hardly makes a pattern, but these two performances from Lester and Buchholz are certainly encouraging and they give you a taste of what was envisioned when this club was put together. The first act has been a little rough to sit through so far but May will soon be here and perhaps this staff can now get rolling. At the very least, Lester and Buck got it headed in the right direction. Now it’s up to Lackey, Dice and Beckett to build up some speed.

And boy, it looks like the Sox will need some speed because this offense is not very good right now. Let’s just say it’s not a great sign when Darnell McDonald is your most trusted run producer. To recap the Toronto series, from an offensive standpoint, the Sox were supposed to destroy Eveland on Monday and they did. On Tuesday, they were probably due to struggle against Marcum and they did. But yesterday, they should have knocked Cecil around and they didn’t come close. In fact, Cecil threw a very good game until the Sox got a little feisty in the sixth.

* Once again, we saw way too many harmless fly balls come off Red Sox bats. Cecil got eleven fly ball outs and other than a Drew slap to left, I don’t remember any being really well hit. Things got a bit better in the sixth and seventh but still, there are too many cans of corn on the shelf  right now.

* You know what else there is too much of ……. Poor situational hitting. In tight games Tuesday and Wednesday, the Sox had chances to give their pitcher the lead with leadoff doubles. But in both cases, the rallies went nowhere. Scutaro had a couple of knocks last night but he gets the bonehead award for fouling out with a runner on third and one out.  

* Victor Martinez has now hit into eight double plays. That is two more than he grounded into last year with the Sox in one-third of the plate appearances. If the extra outs and rally kills weren’t enough, Martinez hasn’t whacked a double since April 15th or a Home Run since April 6th.  I can’t believe I am saying this but against left-handed pitching, I would sit Ortiz AND Martinez.

* With today being an off-day and the starters catching an extra day of rest, it seems that Francona felt more comfortable letting Lester (and Buchholz) pitch a bit longer. Lester tossed 119 last night and Buch was good for 117 on Tuesday. I am all in favor of the heavier workloads for two reasons: First, the extra day should minimize any lingering effect. And two, who else would you like to see out there? I’ll take Lester’s 110th pitch over MDC’s first pitch any day of the week.

* Old friend Alex Gonzalez got off to a great start and Theo haters were in a buzz over the Gonzo-Scutaro swap. Well, give it some time. Gonzo is slowly coming back to the pack and it shouldn’t be too long before that swap looks a little better for the Sox.  

* Great Moments in Red Sox History: Twenty-four years ago today, Roger Clemens authored one of the great games in pitching history. Facing thirty batters, Clemens struck out twenty while holding the Mariners to a single run. Perhaps the most amazing thing about that night was Clemens didn’t walk a single batter. Despite all that, Clemens gave up a home run in the 7th and needed a three run slam by Dwight Evans in the bottom of the inning to get the win. Interestingly, the 9-8 Sox, with Clemens pitching, only drew 13K that Tuesday night.

* Farm Report: It was not a great night for Casey Kelly as the phenom gave up three runs and five hits over just 2.1 innings. He has now given up four earned runs in 10.1 innings at AA, although he does have ten strikeouts. Remember, Kelly only had 48 innings at high-A last year so this jump is no picnic. And given that, it wouldn’t’ surprise me if Kelly’s next two months are uneven.  But as Kelly becomes more comfortable with the Eastern League and the Sox start giving him some more innings, I think the results will be there.

* The Sox draw Hernandez, Bergessen and Milwood this weekend in Baltimore. Hernandez pitched a decent game on Sunday but I would expect the Sox to be able to score some runs the second time around. Bergessen has struggled big-time this year but he threw a nice game against the Sox last July. And Milwood? Well, he smoked the Sox last year, allowing just three earned runs in 18 innings. Lackey should be good for a win Friday, you never know with Dice on Saturday and Beckett gets the ball on Sunday. Given that Milwood matchup, the Sox might need Beckett to join the Party that Buck and Lester just started.

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