June 28, 2006


N.L.'s best can't match Sox: Jon Lester gets through five innings and Boston notches its 10th straight victory by clubbing the Mets. (SHALISE MANZA YOUNG, 6/28/06, Providence Journal)

With the last outstanding Red Sox homegrown left-hander, Bruce Hurst, here to celebrate the 1986 American League pennant-winning team, Boston's potential lefty of the future took to the mound last night for his fourth major-league start.

Jon Lester got himself in and out of trouble better than a four-year-old against the New York Mets last night, giving up two runs over five innings as Boston notched its 10th straight win -- all against National League East opponents -- by a 9-4 count.

Coupled with the Yankees' loss to Atlanta, Boston is a season-high 3 1/2 games up in the A.L. East.

The Mets, owners of the second-best road record in the majors and the best record in the N.L., were supposed to pose a formidable threat to the Sox. But though both teams started rookie pitchers, one of the young guns was able to keep it together on the mound while the other struggled. [...]

Varitek was impressed with Lester's composure.

"We stayed out of a big inning against a very good lineup; Lester did a good job," said Varitek. "We hoped he would go further, but he didn't. But anytime you get out of jams, it gives you confidence; if you don't panic and don't let innings [get out of hand], it gives your teammates a chance to win."

"It's amazing," Francona said. "In two innings, he threw 76 pitches and gave up one run. Against one of the best young hitters in the game (Wright), he throws a 3-2 breaking ball. Any pitcher, let alone one with only three major-league starts, would try to be fastball-dominant, and he didn't do that." [...]

The Boston hitters got to New York starter Alay Soler early. He threw 42 pitches in the first inning alone, when the Sox got things going with a two-run single by Varitek to score Kevin Youkilis and Manny Ramirez. Boston cobbled together a run in the second, but effectively put the game out of reach with five total runs in the fourth and fifth. Ramirez had a towering shot drop just in front of the wall to score two runs in the fourth, while in the next inning Mike Lowell had a solo home run and Alex Gonzalez clubbed a two-run homer over the Green Monster.

The curve Lester snapped off against Wright was just filthy, the defense and homreuns from Lowell and Gonzalez more predictable.

Fortunately, the Mets are run pretty badly. They'd be a much better team today with Jorge Julio in the bullpen and Aaron Heilman starting than they are with Soler & El Duque starting, they've never addressed their obvious 2B problem, and Lastings Milledge is too immature to be promoted to the majors. That said, they're certainly the best team in the NL, comparable to the Mariners or As.

Sox -- Too hot to handle: Winning streak hits 10 (Jeff Horrigan, June 28, 2006, Boston Herald)

The 10-game winning streak, which is the 22nd double-digit streak in franchise history, is the longest since a 10-game run from Aug. 24-Sept. 3, 2004.

“I think our pitchers have been setting the tone, but our defense has been great and we’re swinging the bats really good,” said Mike Lowell, who surpassed his 2005 homer total with his ninth of the year off Soler in the fifth inning. “That’s a great recipe for winning games, no matter who you’re playing.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 28, 2006 8:07 AM

Lester already has the pitching sense Beckett needs. Francona could have been comparing Lester to Beckett when he spoke of any pitcher being fastball dominant in that situation. You have to believe having young competition will fire up Beckett, who has better stuff than Lester, to elevate his game.

Lastings Milledge gave up on a catchable ball for one double, and then let another one drop right next to him for a 2-run double. He single-handedly turned the game around for the Sox. Please, Mets, don't send him back down until before the Yankees series.

Posted by: pj at June 28, 2006 8:28 AM

Same catcher.

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2006 8:34 AM

Less confidence in the off pitches. Beckett's top two pitches are better than Lester's best, but Lester's fourth pitch is better than Beckett's third. And then Beckett has had so much success for so long just rearing back and throwing fastballs, they became his security blanket. Also, Lester is not calling off Varitek now, just following directions while he gets acclimated, and Varitek is great at mixing pitches up; Beckett has been more controlling of what he throws.

Posted by: pj at June 28, 2006 9:53 AM

Exactly. Varitek isn't calling for the correct pitch. He wants pitchers to like him too much.

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2006 9:58 AM

Varitek can't make a pitcher throw a pitch he doesn't want to pitch. They have to figure this out together. And I think they've already figured it out, with help from the coaching staff and the scout/analysts who watch and analyze the games. I expect good performances from Beckett here on out, and even better performances in years to come as he improves command and diversifies his pitches a little.

Posted by: pj at June 28, 2006 12:33 PM

He could. He chooses not to.

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2006 12:36 PM

The Mets were one horribly ill-advised third-base coach wave-around from having a huge inning that would have drastically changed the dynamic of last night's game, regardless of Milledge's bonehead play.

Posted by: Matt Cohen at June 28, 2006 4:57 PM

Coulda, woulda, shoulda....

Posted by: oj at June 28, 2006 5:02 PM

Lastings Milledge: Making Manny look like a defensive star.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 28, 2006 7:32 PM

Please, Lord, keep Lastings Milledge up for Thursday's game.

Posted by: pj at June 28, 2006 8:24 PM