Saturday, July 24, 2010 Updated: July 25, 2:05 PM ET
Red Sox waste Lester's best
By Joe McDonald ESPNBoston.com
SEATTLE -- Another strong pitching performance for the Boston Red Sox was wasted due to a lack of offense, which is becoming a theme of late. If Boston expects to have any chance of staying alive in the AL East, something needs to change.
Red Sox ace Jon Lester was outstanding, retiring the first 16 batters he faced but ultimately taking the loss as the Seattle Mariners defeated the Red Sox 5-1 Saturday night at Safeco Field. It was a stunning turn of events for the left-handed starter; Lester's record drops to 11-5 after working 7 2/3 innings and allowing five runs (four earned) on four hits with one walk and 13 strikeouts.
"That's as good of stuff as we've seen all year," manager Terry Francona said. "The outcome is a shame. He pitched better than the line score will show. He had a perfect game going for half the game. We drop a fly ball, then he hangs a breaking ball, which was the first bad pitch he threw all night."
David Ortiz's solo home run in the fourth inning wasn't enough to beat the Mariners.
Lester was able to mix in all his pitches effectively and was in complete command of the zone. He found his rhythm early and dominated.
The Red Sox entered the bottom of the sixth inning with a 1-0 lead, thanks to David Ortiz's 19th homer of the season, and Lester was cruising. Then with one out, the Mariners' Jack Wilson hit a ball into the gap in left-center field. Red Sox center fielder Eric Patterson was able to get a solid jump on the ball and tracked it down with relative ease and caught it.
Then he dropped it.
"Off the bat I saw it well," Patterson said. "I probably overran it a little bit, knowing I had to cover some extra ground. No excuse. It doesn't matter what the situation is, that ball has to be caught. It seemed to turn the momentum in the game and it was unfortunate."
It clearly turned the momentum.
Seattle's next batter, Michael Saunders, stepped in and crushed a two-run homer to give the Mariners the lead, which they did not relinquish.
After the game, Lester said the error did not unnerve him at all.
"No. No. I hung a curveball to a guy I shouldn't have," he said. "He put a good swing on it and hit it out."
Prior to the home run, Saunders stepped out of the batter's box in an attempt to rattle Lester's concentration, but the pitcher said he doesn't believe in that sort of strategy by an opposing hitter.
"No. This is the big leagues," he said. "If that disrupts your rhythm, you don't need to be pitching up here."
Lester was asked specifically how much this loss stung given the way he pitched.
"You basically said it," he answered.
Red Sox catcher Kevin Cash said his battery mate had "no-hit stuff from the start."
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"I don't know about that," Lester said. "I felt like I had good stuff, but you can never predict that stuff."
The real underlying theme here wasn't the fact that Lester lost a chance at perfection, or a no-hitter; it was another example of how bad the club needs Victor Martinez and Dustin Pedroia back in the lineup, especially from an offensive standpoint.
Lester did his job well, but he didn't get any help offensively.
"I don't know, man," Ortiz said. "There's a lot of [expletive] going on. We just need to come back tomorrow and play the game and keep it simple."
In the first game here on Thursday, the Sox surrendered a five-run lead when the Mariners tallied five in the bottom of the ninth inning. Fortunately for Boston, the game ended with an 8-6 win in 13 innings.
The Red Sox won 2-1 on Friday, and then let a solid pitching performance by Lester go to waste on Saturday.
"Yeah, man. We need to seriously produce," Ortiz said. "Our offense has been kind of slow lately. We haven't been able to get that going. [Thursday] night we scored six runs and you saw what happened.
"We need to try to go back to that so we can give our pitchers a more comfortable situation. Jon was pitching like that all night and we didn't produce for him and get him in a comfortable spot. One run is not enough, a swing can change anything."
And it did.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.