Red Sox-Blue Jays Live: Jon Lester Almost Perfect As Sox Roll Over Jays 5-0 in Series Opener

Jon LesterFinal, Red Sox 5-0: Jon Lester wasn’t perfect, but he was pretty close.

Lester closed the book on a one-hit gem by retiring the Blue Jays in order in the ninth. The lefty struck out five in the complete-game shutout, and Toronto’s only baserunner came when Maicer Izturis doubled down the left-field line with two outs in the sixth inning.

It was a dominant effort throughout for Lester, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The Red Sox entered the game having lost six of their last seven games. Now, they’ll try to use the dazzling performance as a springboard toward better things.

Making Lester’s performance even more impressive is that he pitched with a one-run lead for much of the game. The Red Sox eventually put up four more runs in the seventh inning, but the lefty didn’t have much margin for error.

Shane Victorino (two hits and two walks) reached base four times, and Dustin Pedroia (two hits and a walk) reached safely three times. Will Middlebrooks and Jarrod Saltalamacchia each banged out two hits, and Daniel Nava provided a two-run double.

The Red Sox will look to start building a winning streak against the Blue Jays on Saturday. Clay Buchholz will take the ball, and the first pitch is scheduled for 1:35 p.m.

Good night, everyone.

End 8th, Red Sox 5-0: The Red Sox went down without a peep in the eighth inning, but it might not matter. Jon Lester is coming back out to finish what he started, and he’s been lights-out thus far.

Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino went down in order in the eighth.

Mid 8th, Red Sox 5-0: There was apparently no need to worry about Jon Lester getting rusty while the Red Sox enjoyed a lengthy offensive sequence in the seventh inning.

Lester mowed down the Blue Jays in order on seven pitches. J.P. Arencibia flied out to left, Mark DeRosa grounded out to third and Brett Lawrie lined out to second.

End 7th, Red Sox 5-0: The Red Sox got to Brett Cecil to begin the seventh inning. They then finished off the four-run assault by doing damage against Mickey Storey.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia pounded three straight singles against Cecil to make the game 2-0.

All three singles came when Cecil tried to pull the string with a curveball, so clearly that’s a pitch that wasn’t quite working for him in this one. It’s a bit surprising considering the success Cecil has had against the Sox this season.

The final batter Cecil faced was David Ortiz, who struck out swinging. The Blue Jays then turned to Storey, who struck out Mike Napoli in impressive fashion. Storey got the Red Sox first baseman to chase a slider, and it looked as if Toronto might actually escape the inning with only minimal damage inflicted.

Storey imploded from there, though. Daniel Nava smashed a two-run double high off the wall in left-center field. Storey’s fastball caught way too much of the plate, and Nava made him pay.

Nava scored when Jarrod Saltalamacchia drilled a line drive over Jose Bautista’s head in right field. Storey got ahead of Saltalamacchia 0-2, but Salty laid off three straight pitches, including one in the dirt, before eventually getting a pitch he could drive.

Jon Lester, who has thrown 92 pitches, is coming on to pitch the eighth inning. He’ll now do so with the benefit of a five-run lead.

Mid 7th, Red Sox 1-0: After the Blue Jays picked up their first hit of the game in the sixth inning, it was back to business as usual for Jon Lester in the seventh.

Lester got both Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista to ground out to short. The lefty then ended the inning by getting Edwin Encarnacion to pop out to Dustin Pedroia at second.

Making Lester’s outing even more impressive thus far is that he’s cruising along with just a one-run lead. Boston really needs to muster up some more offense to ensure Lester’s fantastic start doesn’t end up going to waste if he stumbles at all.

End 6th, Red Sox 1-0: Will Middlebrooks is putting together a nice game. He went the other way to pick up a double in the sixth inning, and he’s now 2-for-3 with two doubles and the game’s lone RBI.

The Red Sox squandered his two-out two-bagger, though. Brett Cecil, who replaced Ramon Ortiz before the inning, got Stephen Drew to fly out to center field to end the inning.

Ortiz went five innings for Toronto. He gave up just the one run on four hits, but the veteran righty played with fire throughout the contest. He issued five walks while throwing 96 pitches, yet Boston’s inability to cash in let him off the hook repeatedly.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 1-0: And there goes the perfect game.

Jon Lester got two quick outs in the sixth inning, but Maicer Izturis lined a double down the left-field line to break up the left-hander’s bid for perfection.

Lester tried to get ahead of Izturis with a changeup, but the Blue Jays shortstop stayed back and pulled it into the corner.

The big thing, however, is that Lester wasn’t rattled by the hit. The Fenway Faithful gave him a standing ovation, and then the lefty struck out Adam Lind — who pinch-hit for Rajai Davis — to end the inning with the 1-0 lead still intact.

All too often, pitchers unravel after that first hit, but Lester ensured it didn’t happen in that particular situation.

End 5th, Red Sox 1-0: Jon Lester will again take the mound with just a one-run pad, as the Red Sox are still failing to capitalize with runners on.

Shane Victorino led off with a walk, meaning he’s now reached base three times. Dustin Pedroia then grounded to the left side. Maicer Izturis made a great diving play — yes, the Blue Jays enjoyed a nice defensive moment — but he was unable to throw out a hustling Victorino at second. That set up runners at first and second with no outs.

At that point, the Red Sox had the potential for a big inning. Two batters later, however, it was all over. David Ortiz grounded into a 4-6 force out, and Mike Napoli grounded into an inning-ending, 6-4-3 double play with runners at the corners.

Boston has now stranded seven runners. The Red Sox are 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Mid 5th, Red Sox 1-0: Jon Lester isn’t reading this, so no, I’m not jinxing it.

Lester threw another 1-2-3 frame, and he’s now perfect through five innings at Fenway.

Lester got two quick outs in the fifth, retiring Edwin Encarnacion on a ground ball to third and J.P. Arencibia on a pop out to the hot corner.

After that, Mark DeRosa put up what may be Toronto’s best at-bat so far. Lester just missed with a couple of pitches, which set up a 3-2 count. DeRosa then fouled off a changeup to stay alive before grounding out to Will Middlebrooks on the ninth pitch of the at-bat.

Lester has only thrown 58 pitches, so he’s in great shape in that regard. He still only has a one-run cushion, though, which is crazy considering how different the two offenses have been in this game. The Blue Jays haven’t had any baserunners, while the Red Sox have had plenty. Boston just hasn’t capitalized on its chances.

End 4th, Red Sox 1-0: Will Middlebrooks hasn’t homered since April 26 — a stretch of 12 games. He nearly changed that in the fourth inning, but a big green wall stood in the way.

Middlebrooks smoked a line drive high off the Green Monster. The Red Sox third baseman was about three feet shy of his seventh dinger, but instead he had to settle for a double.

That was huge, as the Red Sox once again couldn’t do anything with the baserunner. Stephen Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury each flied out following Middlebrooks’ one-out double to end the threat.

Mid 4th, Red Sox 1-0: The Red Sox are struggling to cash in on their scoring chances, but it hasn’t hurt them yet because Jon Lester is cruising right along.

Lester enjoyed another perfect inning in the fourth. He retired Toronto’s top three hitters in the lineup — Rajai Davis, Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista — via a pair of ground outs and a fly out.

Cabrera was the man who flied out, and he gave it a ride. Daniel Nava backtracked and caught it right in front of the left-field wall.

Lester has only thrown 43 pitches through four innings, so he’s in a pretty good place right now.

End 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: The Red Sox have been plagued at times this season by leaving men on base. They’re off to a rough start in that department in this game.

The Red Sox have left five men on base, and they’re 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position through the first three innings. In the third, they left two runners on, including one that was 90 feet away from scoring.

Shane Victorino, who singled back in the first inning, walked to lead off the third. He moved up to second base when Ramon Ortiz fired an errant pickoff attempt to first with one out. With the open base, the Blue Jays decided to walk David Ortiz, who was ahead in the count 2-1.

Mike Napoli nearly grounded into an inning-ending double play, but he beat out the throw at first. It didn’t matter, though, as Daniel Nava flied out to center field to end the inning with runners at the corners.

Mid 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: Jon Lester now has three 1-2-3 innings to begin this ballgame.

In the third, it was Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus and Maicer Izturis who went down in order. Lester has now made his way through the Toronto order once without anyone reaching.

Lester picked up his second strikeout in the third inning. Colby Rasmus worked a full count, but Lester went to the cutter to put him away.

End 2nd, Red Sox 1-0: The Red Sox’ defense has struggled lately, but poor defense has been a hallmark of the Blue Jays’ season.

Maicer Izturis’ error in the second inning took away a potential double play, and the miscue further proves that Toronto’s defense is something to keep an eye on in this series.

Daniel Nava worked a one-out walk to get the offense rolling. He advanced from first to third on a base hit into right-center by Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Will Middlebrooks then hit a ground ball to short. Izturis ranged to his right and fielded it on the back hand. His attempt at getting a force out at second base was thrown in the dirt, though, and everyone was safe. Nava scored, Salty moved to second and Middlebrooks reached at first.

Edwin Encarnacion nearly made matters worse by bobbling a ground ball off the bat of Stephen Drew. He managed to recover in time to record an out at first, but the bobble eliminated a potential double play. Fortunately for the Jays,  Jacoby Ellsbury ended the inning and the threat by grounding out to second.

The Red Sox still came away with a run, though.

Click here to read about the Red Sox’ defense >>

Mid 2nd, 0-0: Jon Lester was sharp once again in the second inning. He retired the Blue Jays in order, and picked up his first strikeout in the process.

Edwin Encarnacion led off the inning with a ground ball to third base that Will Middlebrooks took care of for the first out. Middlebrooks seems to be over his rib cage soreness, but his defense has been subpar of late.

Lester then struck out Toronto’s powerful backstop, J.P. Arencibia. Lester set him up with fastballs before throwing a 1-2 changeup that simply fell off the table. Arencibia took a hack, but he came up empty.

Mark DeRosa, like Encarnacion, grounded out to third base to end the inning.

End 1st, 0-0: David Ortiz has gone from red hot to ice cold in a hurry.

Ortiz, who entered the game 0-for-10 over his last two contests after compiling a 27-game hit streak, grounded into an inning-ending double play in the first. Entering the game, Ortiz was hitting just .188 with a .235 on-base percentage in May after a scorching start to the year.

The Red Sox put two men on before the twin killing. After Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out, Shane Victorino pulled a single through the right side and Dustin Pedroia walked on four pitches.

Mid 1st, 0-0: The Red Sox — losers of six of their last seven games — need Jon Lester to be at the top of his game. So far, so good.

Lester cruised through the first inning on six pitches. He retired Rajai Davis, Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista in order.

Davis led off by flying out to right field. Lester then got Cabrera to ground out to third and Bautista to fly out to left.

7:10 p.m.: One pitch, one out. Jon Lester’s first pitch resulted in a fly out to right field, and we’re under way at Fenway.

6:55 p.m.: Just a heads up. (Although I’m sure you already know.) Both the Red Sox and Bruins are in action on Friday, and NESN has both games covered. The Bruins will air on NESN, while the Red Sox will air on NESNplus. To find your NESNplus channel, check out the listings at the link below.

Click here for Friday’s NESNplus listings >>

You can also follow our NESN.com Bruins live blog, if you so choose. Mike Cole will keep you up to speed on all the playoff happenings.

Click here for NESN.com’s Bruins live blog >>

6:45 p.m.: Not sure if everyone already saw this, but Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie had a little bit of a Twitter rant on Thursday. He later deleted the tweet, but the whole situation is actually quite funny. I chimed in on the issue, if you’re interested.

Click here to read about Lawrie’s Twitter rant >>

6:15 p.m.: I’ve got a few other tidbits to pass along before we get going.

Andrew Bailey had another symptom-free day on Friday, according to manager John Farrell. The plan is for the right-hander to throw from 105 feet on Saturday. He’ll then need to throw long toss before getting back to throwing off a mound. There’s still no date for his return, but progress is certainly being made.

Farrell also said that John Lackey is scheduled to start on Tuesday. Felix Doubront, who threw over 100 pitches in relief on Thursday, will start next Thursday. The Red Sox are still trying to figure out some things with Doubront — most notably, what happened to his velocity? — and he will not be available over the weekend.

5:10 p.m.: Joel Hanrahan visited Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on his throwing arm on Friday. The right-hander is dealing with an injury to his flexor muscle tendon, and he’ll be out at least two months after being transferred to the 60-day disabled list on Thursday.

There is a possibility that Hanrahan’s season is over, but manager John Farrell said that no decision has been made on what course the reliever will take. Hanrahan could decide to go a conservative route, which would involve rest and rehab, in an effort to pitch again this season, or he could decide that season-ending surgery is the best option. We should know more in the coming days.

One thing Farrell did say, though, is that Hanrahan had a similar issue in 2009, although he’s unsure if the current injury is the result of the 31-year-old’s cumulative innings. Farrell said the ’09 injury wasn’t an issue brought up before acquiring Hanrahan because it didn’t flare up in the subsequent years.

5:05 p.m.: The Red Sox will roll out a pretty standard lineup in the series opener. Jarrod Saltalamacchia will get the start behind the plate with Jon Lester on the hill.

Red Sox (21-14)
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Shane Victorino, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Daniel Nava, LF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Stephen Drew, SS

Jon Lester, LHP (4-0, 3.30 ERA)

Blue Jays (13-23)
Rajai Davis, DH
Melky Cabrera, LF
Jose Bautista, RF
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B
J.P. Arencibia, C
Mark DeRosa, 2B
Brett Lawrie, 3B
Colby Rasmus, CF
Maicer Izturis, SS

Ramon Ortiz, RHP (0-0, 5.40 ERA)

8 a.m. ET: The Red Sox are suddenly a tough team to put a finger on.

One week ago, they were considered to be one of baseball’s best clubs. Now, they’ve lost six of their last seven games, and there are serious questions in multiple areas. Boston’s bullpen is a bit banged up, the defense has been awful and the offense has been inconsistent.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, they’re welcoming the last-place Blue Jays into town for a three-game weekend set. The Jays hold a 13-23 record, and they’ve been a train wreck this season. It could be a good opportunity for the Red Sox to get back on the winning path, especially since they’ve already taken four of six from Toronto this season.

Friday’s action will kick off at 7:10 p.m. Jon Lester will toe the rubber for the Sox.

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