About 14 hours after they were forced to burn through six relievers in an 11-inning marathon loss, the Sox received 7 1/3 solid innings from their ace, who let up two earned runs along the way. The result of his efforts? A 4-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers that drops Lester to 0-2 on the season -- with a 2.51 ERA.
Boston’s bats produced nine hits but none when they were needed, and the defense committed two costly errors. The lackluster play around him had Lester in conservation mode early.
“The effort is there and obviously they don’t want to not get any runs on the board. It is what it is. I have to worry about pitching,” he said. “I have to worry about going out and putting up zeroes. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to put up enough zeroes today and their guy pitched a little bit better.”
Lester was given one run of support in his season-opening loss at Baltimore. The Red Sox were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left 12 on base in that one. On Sunday, they had one hit with runners in scoring position in seven at-bats, an infield single by catcher David Ross that could only push Jackie Bradley Jr. to third base, where he became one of nine stranded Boston runners.
Ross felt for his batterymate.
“I thought Jon threw the ball extremely well. I guess the box score probably doesn’t say how well he pitched,” Ross said. “He may have made, for me, maybe two or three mistakes the whole game. Or just, not even mistakes, just balls creeping over the middle a little bit and they took advantage, seemed to have scored on that. We didn’t play great defense behind him.”
No, they didn’t. There was a miscommunication between Lester and third baseman Jonathan Herrera on a Khris Davis bunt that died with both looking at it, resulting in a single that put runners at first and second with no outs in the second. Mark Reynolds followed with a liner to right that bounced a few feet in front of Daniel Nava and caromed away, allowing Davis to score all the way from first behind Jonathan Lucroy.
“I was coming in and I realized I didn’t have a plan developed so I tried to slow up and as I did that it skipped on by me,” Nava said. “Unfortunate. Jon was pitching so well and we weren’t hitting, so every run was going to make a difference.”
Indeed, the Brewers never needed another, but they scratched one across in the seventh and another in the eighth with help from a Ross error, the fifth of the series for Boston.
In the likely event that the world champs get their act together and start hitting and fielding, they at least have comfort knowing the pitching is on course with Lester leading the way again.
“I thought he did another outstanding job for us,” manager John Farrell said. “Pitches into the eighth inning with just the three runs on the board. They took advantage of an error in the outfield that led to the two runs in the second inning.
“I thought he had a good complement of pitches going. Very good curveball today, probably better than his last time out in Baltimore. But we came up short with the offensive production.”
Farrell sees no lack of effort.
“We’re doing our damndest,” he said. “I know that to try to build an inning, to try to hit to the situation. At some point you credit the quality of pitches made in key spots by the opposing pitcher.”
That opposing pitcher was Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo, whose teammates made plays behind him and got hits in key situations. Lester is still waiting for that kind of support in 2014.