I can’t believe this. The one bad inning yet again rears its ugly head. We were neck and neck for more than half the game. Lester gave up two runs in the top of the first, but Gonzalez recovered one of them with a solo shot into the bullpen in right. It was a cut fastball down and in and he launched it. That was the first run we scored. Paul Konerko took that run back in the third with a solo shot of his own, but then we tied it up in the third. Salty got hit, Ellsbury doubled, and both scored on a single by Pedroia. Three apiece. And that’s how it stayed until the sixth inning.
Lester had more or less settled down after that rough first inning. He’d thrown twenty-six pitches that inning. It was evident early on that his offspeed pitches just weren’t there, that his cut fastball wasn’t as fierce as usual, that his command was taking a hit (pun most definitely intended). He would work himself into pitcher’s counts and then allow himself to be worked right back out of them. But it looked like he would have enough to at least sustain the tie and go long enough for the bullpen to roll out without working too much overtime. The Other Sox had left runners on base in each of the previous innings, and it seemed at first like the sixth would be just another one of those.
By the time Lester secured the first two outs in the sixth, he had already given up two singles. On another night, he could have slammed the door on the next batter to end the inning. (Actually, on another night, he could have just not allowed the singles in the first place, but that’s not the point.) Instead, he issued a five-pitch walk. He allowed a double after that to bring in two. His final line was five and two-thirds innings, seven runs on eight hits, a home run, four walks, four K’s, a season-high 127 pitches he hasn’t approached since 2008, seventy-two strikes. And he hit the same batter twice. His ERA in May is 5.50. I think his April badness shifted down a month.
He was taken out of the game after that and was replaced by Dan Wheeler, who proceeded to allow a single that brought home both of his inherited runners. A four-spot in the sixth did us in. We didn’t score again. Bowden came in for the eighth and ninth. He allowed three hits but no runs. But it didn’t matter. We lost, 7-3. Lester hasn’t lost since April 12, and for the second time in our last nine games, we scored less than four runs.
Ellsbury is in the middle of a six-game hitting streak and made a fantastic running catch in the eighth. Papi’s two-for-three performance raised his average to .306, the highest it’s been at this time in the season since 2007. But we snapped a five-game winning streak. Still, we finish May with the best record in the Majors for the month.