The Red Sox needed Jon Lester to step up Monday. He responded with a vintage performance.
Lester tossed 8 1/3 shutout innings as the Red Sox opened up their West Coast trip with a much-needed 7-0 victory over the Giants. It was an important win, an impressive win and a win that Lester was determined to provide.
The Red Sox entered Monday’s game in San Francisco having lost four of their last five games, including two of three against the Yankees over the weekend. It wasn’t necessarily a case of full-blown hysteria in Boston, but given all that transpired in Sunday’s 9-6 loss to the Yankees, there were certainly some concerns about the direction that the Red Sox were headed. Lester mitigated those concerns — at least temporarily — with a performance that was reminiscent of his days as Boston’s ace.
“An outstanding effort on his part,” John Farrell said. “A lot of strikes. I thought his fastball was sharp. It was powerful, and he mixed in some breaking balls, particularly his cutter, and that was powerful tonight.”
Lester gave up six hits, walked two and struck out three. He was in cruise control right out of the gate, stymieing San Francisco’s offense and cutting off any potential rally before it could build. It was a classic shutdown performance by a pitcher whose season has been a roller coaster ride.
“I think any time you have these long travel days, you look to the starting pitcher to keep the game under control, and not knowing how you’re going to come out physically from an offensive standpoint [or] how many different times you can push to get an offense started,” Farrell said. “He gave us just that.”
To the Red Sox’ credit, the hectic travel schedule — which involved them boarding the cross-country flight at 10 a.m. Monday — didn’t play a factor, as the offense more than held its own.
The Red Sox jumped on Giants starter Tim Lincecum for three runs in the second inning. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Daniel Nava and Stephen Drew all reached to begin the frame, and Will Middlebrooks opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly to right field. The Sox then scored on a strange balk in which Lincecum appeared to slip off the mound, and they added a run when Shane Victorino singled into center field for one of his three hits.
“Offensively, just a very good night up and down the lineup,” Farrell said. “A lot of quality at-bats. Salty once again, he’s hitting for power. The doubles he’s been accumulating has been outstanding. Nava, Victorino, [Jacoby Ellsbury]. Just some good at-bats up and down the lineup.”
The Red Sox tacked on four more runs before all was said and done, but even just a single run would have been enough for Lester, who pitched with plenty conviction. The left-hander could be seen telling Farrell “I’m finishing this game” as he walked off the mound after the eighth inning.
Lester wasn’t able to finish what he started, as Farrell turned to Brandon Workman after Lester gave up back-to-back singles with one out in the ninth inning. But it was a superb outing by Lester, and one that the Red Sox have to feel good about given all of the circumstances.
Even if Lester is no longer an ace, it’s clear that he still has the potential to play the role of stopper.