From a pitching perspective, last night’s loss was similar to Tuesday’s loss, in which Buchholz had a less-than-stellar start but a start sufficiently decent enough that we should have been able to win. Last night’s loss was not similar to Tuesday’s loss in that last night there was no blown save. In fact, last night there was no relief appearance of any kind.
That was because Lester dug deep and went the distance. It wasn’t easy; you could see that, while he too was having a less-than-stellar but but still okay-decent-mediocre start, it wasn’t coming easily and fluidly. He had to work hard. In eight innings, he threw 121 pitches, and they just didn’t come out of his hand as easily as they do when you can tell that he’s totally in the zone. He walked three, struck out two, and allowed five runs on nine hits.
He began the game with a four-pitch walk, which should have been an indication of the type of outing that he was going to have; that walk turned into a run on a double. He retired the side in the second and then gave up four consecutive singles in the third that brought in two more runs. And then he began the fourth with a five-pitch walk followed by a single; the walk turned into a run on a double play.
So as you can see he did struggle in the first half of his innings and then turned it around pretty quickly. Because after that he was lights out. But unfortunately the damage had already been done, so I have to label that start as okay-decent-mediocre but, if you think about it, if Lester had pitched less innings and allowed less runs, the Angels probably would have scored five runs anyway because the bullpen probably would have allowed a couple. So from a pitching perspective it was just your average start. But kind of not since Lester went the distance, which is huge, since we haven’t seen that too often this year.
So that readily identifies the fact that the reason why we lost wasn’t that Lester had a bad day; the reason why we lost was that the hitters had a bad day. We scored a grand total of two runs to their five. Loney led off the second with a single, and then Ross lined out and then Salty and Lavarnway worked back-to-back walks to load the bases. And Aviles stepped up to the plate literally but not figuratively, because all he could muster was a sac fly that plated one. That’s better than nothing, but it wasn’t enough. Similarly, Ciriaco struck out to end the threat. It turned out to be our best opportunity all game to do any damage whatsoever. And we wasted it.
We didn’t score again until the sixth, which began with Ellsbury striking out. Then, Loney hit his first home run in a Boston uniform, a solo shot that ended up beyond the right field fence. He hit it on an 0-2 count; he had taken two curveballs for strikes. He then received an eighty-two mile-per-hour slider and clobbered it.
Other than that, we went down in order in the first and fifth, Pedroia doubled in the third as the inning’s only baserunner, and same with Ross’s single in the fourth and Aviles’s singles in the seventh and ninth. The eighth inning was the only inning during which we didn’t score in which we had more than one baserunner; Pedroia walked and Loney singled.
So this is the second time in the last two weeks that the Angels have swept us. You can’t help thinking that, all else being equal, if only Lester’s first four innings were like his last four, we would have won with those two runs we scored. Well, at least the bullpen got a rest. By the way, we are eight games under .500 and eleven games away from the Wild Card, in case you were wondering.