Monday, July 23, 2012
Clearing the bases: Lester the disaster
By David Schoenfield
First base: Lester loses again. It was a brutal weekend for the Boston Red Sox as they got swept at home by the Toronto Blue Jays by the scores of 6-1, 7-3 and 15-7. Jon Lester was terrible again, allowing 11 runs in four innings on Sunday, including four home runs. He's the first Red Sox pitcher to allow 11 runs since Tim Wakefield did it in 1996. Lester fell to 5-8 with a 5.46 ERA. "It's embarrassing," Lester said. "I've let my teammates down a lot this year. It's hard for me to walk around this clubhouse and look guys in the eye right now." Of 43 qualified AL starters, Lester now ranks 39th in ERA and has allowed 22 runs his past three starts without getting past the fifth inning. He's also allowed fewer than four runs just twice in his past 10 starts against AL teams -- and those starts were against the A's (in Oakland) and Mariners. Maybe Bobby Valentine needs to put Franklin Morales back in the rotation.
Second base: Cy Young Cueto? With all the attention given to R.A. Dickey and Matt Cain this year, the new NL Cy Young favorite may now be the Cincinnati Reds' Johnny Cueto, who improved to 12-5 with a 2.23 ERA after pitching seven strong innings in the 2-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. Cueto ranks second in the NL in ERA to Ryan Dempster (and only three of Cueto's 36 runs have been unearned) although he ranks just 23rd in the NL in strikeout (37 behind league Stephen Strasburg and 29 fewer than Dickey). The big statistical edge Cueto has, however, is that he's compiled his numbers pitching in Cincinnati's home run bandbox. Dickey and Cain ply their trades in pitcher's parks. Impressively, he's allowed just five home runs and has now gone 10 straight starts without allowing a long ball.
Third base: Pretty in Pittsburgh. I love this quote from Jeff Karstens after pitching seven scoreless inning in the Pittsburgh Pirates' 3-0 win over the Miami Marlins: "I was kind of playing Whiffle ball out there. I just think to when I was a little kid, honestly, to make them take unorthodox swings -- really bad swings. That's all I'm trying to do. I'm not trying to blow fastballs by people; I'm just trying to keep people off-balance, and when they do hit the ball hard, hopefully it's right at us." The Pirates pulled off the sweep as Pedro Alvarez hit his fourth home run in six games and, yes, Andrew McCutchen got two more hits. You think Pirates fans are getting pumped? They had a sellout on Saturday and near-sellouts on Friday and Sunday. As for the Marlins ... see ya later. They have five straight losses, a worse run differential than the Padres and they're now eight games out of the wild-card (shared by the Pirates and Braves).
Home plate: Tweet of the day. Barry Larkin entered the Hall of Fame (along with the late Ron Santo), leading to this tweet from Reds beat writer John Fay: