BOSTON -- The way Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine set up his post All-Star break rotation, Jon Lester was given a total of eight days between starts. The long layoff was designed to give him a chance to rest and regroup.
Instead, he showed signs of rust on Tuesday night as the Chicago White Sox defeated the Red Sox 7-5 at Fenway Park.
Lester was inconsistent, unsuccessful and only able to work four innings, allowing six runs on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts. He tossed 91 pitches (57 strikes) as he saw his record drop to 5-7 and his ERA increase to 4.80.
The left-hander never got into a rhythm and the White Sox jumped all over him in the top of the first inning, scoring a pair runs for a 2-0 lead.
Boston responded and tied the game at 2-2 by manufacturing two runs. Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a single, stole second and scored on Carl Crawford’s RBI single. Crawford then stole second, reached third on a 4-3 ground out by Daniel Nava before scoring on an Adrian Gonzalez RBI single.
Crawford went 3-for-4 on Tuesday with three stolen bases and is 4-for-7 in the two games he’s played since returning from the disabled list.
“Carl’s playing with a real fire and it’s a good thing to see,” Valentine said.
“It felt good, man,” Crawford said of his three swipes.
As far as getting off to a successful start, that was his plan once he was activated from the disabled list.
“It feels good,” he said. “I know it’s best to get off to a hot start around here. So far I have been successful at it.”
Even though his teammates gave him back a stalemate, Lester could not keep the White Sox at bay in the top of the second as Chicago pushed across one run to take a 3-2 advantage.
Boston’s southpaw settled down a bit in the third but allowed a three-run homer to former teammate Kevin Youkilis in the top of the fourth as Chicago gained a 6-2 lead.
Lester finished the inning but was given the hook and replaced by right-handed reliever Junichi Tazawa, who worked a solid four innings and allowed only one run with no walks and four strikeouts.
“Tazawa was fantastic,” Valentine said. “The other day he came in and wasn’t quite loose. Today he was loose and gave us four big innings, saved the bullpen and kept us in the ballgame. He had a good fastball, his split was really good and he had good control of his breaking ball.”
Boston cut into its deficit with three runs in the bottom of the eighth, but that would be as close as the Red Sox would get.