TORONTO, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 16: Jon Lester #31 of the Boston Red Sox walks off the field after the 5th inning against the Toronto Blue Jays in a MLB game on September 16, 2012 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Blue Jays defeated the Red Sox 5-0. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Jon Lester just could not get that last out.
This is not, as much as it may initially sound given the source and the subject, a condemnation of Bobby Valentine. Bobby Valentine did not wait too long to go to the bullpen. For once, his only failure was a lack of prescience, and for that he can hardly be blamed.
After all, Jon Lester had been amazing. This was not like other good starts the Sox had seen of late, where a guy gave up three in the first and then dominated, or just scraped by on luck and the like. He came out, and he pitched like the Lester we had gotten used to seeing over the last four years. Ground balls and pop-ups were the best the Blue Jays managed, by and large. He had seven strikeouts in seven incredibly efficient innings, and seemed to be ready to provide a complete game shutout, maybe even if the Sox failed to score before the tenth.
It was a weak lineup, yes. But it was a pleasure to watch nonetheless. When Lester's got it going on like he did today, the Sox should win.
But they did not, because it just...unraveled. Come the seventh--come two outs in the seventh, no less--Lester just couldn't find that last out. A ground ball single, a hanging curveball, and then, frankly, a decent challenge of a fastball that Adeiny Hechavarria made look bad. It was hard, it was cutting inside. Lester buried that pitch right where he wanted it. If it had been a little higher or lower it would have been completely perfect, especially for a first pitch strike, especially to a light-hitting utility infielder.
But Hechavarria took it out, and that was all she wrote--except, of course, for Daniel Bard's bad inning, and by now we really should just accept that as fact.
Lester pitched a beauty, right down to the bitter end, when he struck out Anthony Gose facing a 3-0 deficit. It should be acknowledged because we haven't seen that often from him of late, and because it's a good sign that this Lester still exists.
It's just a bit tragic that the result was a loss. A loss because Adeiny Hechavarria took a good swing on a good pitch. A loss because the Red Sox were unbearably awful at the plate against Brandon Morrow and the bullpen. A loss because it's the Red Sox, and we really just do not sweep opposing teams any longer.
There was plenty of bad stuff today. The offense was awful, there were some ridiculous defensive...moments...and Bobby V even pinch-hit for Jose Iglesias with a 2-2 count. I wonder if he's playing some sort of bizarre managerial bingo? Maybe late bullpen moves and bizarre lineups account for more than one space?
Sorry, I can't help myself.
Regardless, though, take the Jon Lester start, remove that last unfortunate bit, and consider that even if they missed out on a feel-good sweep, the Sox reversed a troubling trend with draft position, and you can leave today feeling better than you perhaps should.
We're 15 games from not the end, but the beginning of rebuilding. Towards actual positive steps.