Jun 16, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester (31) delivers a pitch in the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE
Nothing is ever easy.
For the first seven innings this one was all Red Sox. Jarrod Saltalamacchia continued his impressive power hitting with a two run home run off of Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija in the fourth. Will Middlebrooks then extended the Red Sox lead with an RBI double off Randy Wells in the sixth. Then, in the top of the seventh, Scott Podsednik followed up a Mike Aviles double with a line drive single and the Red Sox were up 4-0 with a dominant Jon Lester coasting through the last place Cubs line up.
Lester was in complete control through the first six. He would finish with an excellent line of 6 2/3 innings pitched, 3 runs on seven hits and one walk with eight strikeouts but it could have been even better. Through six, he had shut the Cubs out, struck out seven and walked none. Jeff Baker doubled to start the inning and advanced to third on a ground out from pinch hitter Tony Campana. With catcher Wellington Castillo up and then two lefties at the top of the line up, things still looked good for Lester. Unfortunately, Castillo drew a walk after starting down 0-2 in the count and, in what is becoming a problematic trend, Lester grew visibly frustrated with some of the calls against him, to the point where Valentine had to come out to speak with him. The next hitter, third baseman Luis Valbuena, took Lester deep on the second pitch and like that the comfortable 4-0 was cut to 4-3.
The Red Sox late inning relievers,
Lester’s brief meltdown was not the only thing that made this game closer than it might have been. The Red Sox displayed some incredibly poor base running tonight. They made three outs on the bases, including one at the plate to end the first inning and another at third base. It didn't come back to haunt them, but it easily could have and such mistakes are far too common these days.
In the heading of the game thread I asked, "Is Jon Lester Back?" and despite the home run at the tail end of this outing, I think the answer here was a firm yes. He didn’t just get the win or pitch deep into the seventh, he dominated. He struck out eight and walked just the one, and that one was fairly debatable. Even though he allowed the three run shot, this is game was almost entirely positive for Jon Lester. He has now struck out 23 in 19 2/3 innings in June while walking just four. It's good to have that Jon Lester back.
It was a win and wins are always good but this one wasn’t as easy as it could have been. If the Red Sox continue to play undisciplined baseball like this, they aren’t always going to walk away on top.