Jon Lester’s Good Effort Spoiled, As Red Sox’ Opportunistic Offense Doesn’t Show Up

Jon LesterIt’s been a Jekyll and Hyde season for Jon Lester, so it’s important to take advantage of his good days. The Red Sox didn’t do so on Saturday.

Lester, who was a model of consistency from 2008 to 2011 before a rocky 2012 campaign, started 2013 in impressive fashion. Since beginning the year 6-0, however, Lester has become a symbol of inconsistency, as there’s simply no telling what kind of game the Red Sox are in for when he toes the rubber.

The good Lester showed up on Saturday in Oakland. The lefty’s final stat line — three runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings — isn’t anything to marvel at, but he was pretty solid beyond a few brief hiccups. The problem for the Red Sox was that even one hiccup was too much, as Boston’s offense was held in check by A.J. Griffin en route to a 3-0 Athletics win.

“He’s probably pitching on the wrong day,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “On a night where we score our typical amount of runs, we’re probably having a completely different conversation after this game with the way he pitched.”

Lester and Griffin dueled early on Saturday. Lester was perfect in three of his first four innings, and he effectively navigated around a walk and a couple of hits in the other frame. An all-too-familiar issue reared its ugly head in the fifth inning, though, and that allowed the A’s to seize control.

Lester got two quick outs in the fifth, and he had retired nine straight. He looked poised to breeze through another inning without a blemish on the scoreboard, especially once he got ahead of Derek Norris, 0-2. Lester left a two-strike fastball up, though, and Norris belted it out of the yard to break the scoreless tie.

It was the third home run that Lester has surrendered on an 0-2 pitch this season, which is surprising given that he only allowed four such home runs prior to this year. As Farrell alluded to, the conversation following Saturday’s game would be much different had the Red Sox’ offense provided some support, but it’s fitting that a two-out, two-strike mistake was still the difference in the game.

Following Norris’ blast — his fifth of the season — the A’s used a pair of RBI singles to increase their lead to 3-0. Yoenis Cespedes followed up a walk and a single with a base hit into left field to give Oakland its second run in the sixth inning. Then, Lester put two runners on before exiting with one out in the seventh inning, at which point Junichi Tazawa was greeted with an RBI single from Coco Crisp.

That was all Oakland needed because Boston simply couldn’t buy a run. The Red Sox scored four runs with two outs in Friday’s game, and timely hits were what made their four-game winning streak a reality. On Saturday, however, the Red Sox failed to score despite having at least one baserunner in seven innings.

“Where we’ve been fortunate with two-out base hits the last couple of ballgames, [but] that wasn’t the case tonight,” Farrell said.

Simply put, the A’s were more opportunistic than the Red Sox on Saturday, and there are going to be games like that from time to time. It still probably stings the Red Sox a little bit, especially knowing that they spoiled a good effort from Lester amid his up-and-down season.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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