Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Opening pitch: Lester (1 HR) vs. Bautista
By Gordon Edes
TORONTO -- Greetings from a still-darkened Rogers Centre, where only a few lights have been turned on, the most illumination coming from the yellowish glows of the hotel rooms above the outfield. It’s a beautiful day here, but for now, anyway, the roof remains closed.
Haven’t asked anyone in an official capacity, but with the Maple Leafs in Boston to open the National Hockey League playoffs Wednesday against the Bruins, attendance is expected to be on the light side this week here, where the Sox are aiming for a franchise-record 19th win in April.
The ball will be in the hands of Jon Lester, who threw seven scoreless innings here against the Jays on April 7, allowing just five hits and not walking a batter in a 13-0 win highlighted by Will Middlebrooks' three home runs. The Sox took two of three in that series from the Jays, who will have slugger Jose Bautista for this go-round but are missing Jose Reyes, out an expected three months with a severely sprained ankle.
The Sox have won all five of Lester’s starts, and have scored six or more runs in four of them. The other was a 2-1 win over the Rays, one of three teams that the Sox combined to go 10-0 against this month. The Sox won three from the Rays, three from the Indians and four from the Astros, who promptly went to the Bronx and whipped the Yankees, 9-1, Monday night.
The Sox won six series this month, their only series losses coming when they dropped two of three to the Orioles and two of three to the Royals.
Daniel Rathman of Baseball Prospectus notes that Bautista's return sets up what should be an interesting matchup against Lester, the pitcher he has faced more than any other in his career (52 plate appearances). For the most part, Lester has gotten the better of Bautista, holding him to a .222 average (10 for 45), but among those 10 hits are four home runs and two doubles. Bautista is batting just .192 so far, but has three home runs in his last five games.
Bautista ranks second all-time in home runs off Lester, and has the most of any right-handed hitter off the Sox lefty. Carlos Pena has seven home runs off Lester.
Lester has faced 128 batters this season and allowed one home run, to Chris Young of the Athletics in his last start, April 24 at Fenway Park.
* The Sox made it official just a short time ago, announcing they have activated Joel Hanrahan from the disabled list. We’ll find out in a couple of hours (we think) who will be closing for the Sox tonight, when we meet with Sox manager John Farrell. The Sox manager had declared Hanrahan was his closer unequivocally after he was acquired in a trade from the Pirates last winter, but with Bailey racking up a win and five saves while striking out 20 in 12 1/3 innings, Farrell could be leaning toward the hot hand.
* I sent a message on Twitter to Ashley Papelbon, the wife of the former Sox closer, asking if Pap had any problem with Bailey using “Shipping Up to Boston” as his entrance music. She graciously tweeted back, “@GordonEdes Jp's only thoughts on Boston/Bailey are 1) his daughter is the CUTEST thing we've ever laid eyes on & 2) Bostonians are safe.’’
* And in the time it took me to write this, the lights have come on in the Rog.