ARLINGTON, Texas -- Once upon a time in an Iowa cornfield, a man named Ray Kinsella heard a voice telling him to “Go the distance.”
OK, so Kinsella was a fictional character in the movie “Field of Dreams” and it has nothing to do with the Red Sox’s 3-1 victory over the Texas Rangers on Saturday night. What is comparable is that Boston starter Jon Lester knew heading into the game that the club’s bullpen was taxed, and to win, the team’s ace needed to go the distance -- or least get pretty close.
Lester worked eight scoreless innings, allowing only five hits with no walks and five strikeouts.
“We needed him to go out there and pitch exactly like he did,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “The heat got to him a little bit. He was sick to his stomach, and when he went out in the sixth, we were certainly keeping an eye on him because he wasn’t feeling good. It didn’t look like it the way he was pitching.”
Lester retired the side in order in the sixth and stranded the potential game-tying run at third in the seventh, all while feeling nauseated. Francona sent him back out in the eighth and warned the southpaw he was being watched closely.
Neither heat nor exhaustion fazed Lester. He retired the side in order and his night was finished.
“It is what it is. You know it’s going to be hot and you’ve got to do the best you can to stay hydrated and not really worry about it,” Lester said. “They [the Rangers] have to play and pitch in the same thing we are.”
With the Sox’s bullpen completely blown out from the previous night’s 11-inning loss, Francona handed the ball over to reliever Scott Atchison, who got a quick out but then surrendered a solo homer to the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton.
Vladimir Guerrero then legged out an infield hit, so Francona decided to call for lefty reliever Felix Doubront. With Mitch Moreland at the plate, Guerrero attempted to steal but was cut down by Sox catcher Victor Martinez. Doubront then struck out Moreland on a nasty breaking pitch.
“You get what he does regardless of the situation,” Francona said. “He’s not going to shrink from competing. It’s actually pretty exciting.”
Doubront wanted to make sure he finished the job for one reason and one reason only.
“[Lester] is my hero,” Doubront said.
After losing four consecutive starts, Lester has won his past two and it appears he’s back in his zone, knowing the club needs vintage Lester if it wants to stay in contention down the stretch.
“It’s nice to come out and give a quality start and win a game after two losses,” Lester said. “That was big for us to come out and do that.”