Backed by Home Run Ball, Jon Lester Leads Sox to Victory

Backed by Home Run Ball, Jon Lester Leads Sox to Victory Postgame, Red Sox 6-2: Jon Lester improves to 8-2, Jonathan Papelbon gets his 15th save and the Red Sox secure their seventh series win in the last nine overall.

The clubhouse cleared out rather quickly, perhaps due to the earlier start time for Thursday's finale. Remember, the Sox have moved the start to 6:10 p.m. in order to accomodate those who want to catch the Celtics-Lakers.

Included in that group are the players, so look for some first-pitch swings when John Lackey and Dan Haren square off in a great pitching matchup.

Final, Red Sox 6-2: Behind seven strong innings from Jon Lester and a pair of two-run homers, the Sox improve to 6-2 in interleague play and 4-1 on their current homestand. They also pull within three games of both New York and Tampa Bay in the American League East.

Off to the clubhouse to get the scoop. Back in a bit.

9:55 p.m.: Ramon Ramirez allowed the first two to reach, retired the next two and then yielded to Jonathan Papelbon for what the Sox hope will be the final out.

End 8th, Red Sox 6-2: Ramon Ramirez is on to try to close this one out, but at the first hint of trouble we will see Jonathan Papelbon get up. Paps is stretching as I type this.

Terry Francona talked before the game about whether Papelbon was in need of work given his recent layoff due to bereavement and the lack of save opportunities. But the skipper said that those down periods will pop up from time to time and the club needs to take advantage of them.

A good problem to have, it would seem.

Mid 8th, Red Sox 6-2: Including Daniel Bard's scoreless eighth, the Boston bullpen has combined to allow just one run in its last 14 innings, all since Bard's blown save in Cleveland last week.

It appears as if Ramon Ramirez is warming up.

Reliever Sam Demel, acquired in a trade with Oakland on Tuesday, is making his major league debut for Arizona.

End 7th, Red Sox 6-2: Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz are locked into a pretty good home run race. The pair entered the series tied for the team lead with 12. Ortiz hit a two-run shot Tuesday to take the lead, and Youkilis just retied him with one of his own, a no-doubter to left.

Daniel Bard is trotting in and will take over for Jon Lester, who was solid, if not at his best. Lester gave up two runs on just four hits and struck out seven, but did walk three and also hit two batters.

Also, Darnell McDonald is in left. Weird. McDonald is now a late-game defensive replacement for Daniel Nava. What an odd season it has been for the Red Sox' outfield.

Mid 7th, Red Sox 4-2: We have reached the seventh-inning stretch in rather quick fashion after a bumpy beginning. Jon Lester has not allowed a hit since Miguel Montero's single with one out in the fourth.

Daniel Bard was warming in the Red Sox' bullpen.

End 6th, Red Sox 4-2: Just to follow up my prior post, this game is almost a carbon copy of the series opener. On Tuesday, Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy overcame some early issues to go six and at least give his team a chance. Rodrigo Lopez has done the same, working a 1-2-3 sixth and setting down eight straight overall.

Lopez has actually thrown fewer pitches than Lester and should be fine through seven, at least.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 4-2: This game feels a lot like last night's did. Jon Lester, like Clay Buchholz, is not at his best but doing enough, and early runs by the Red Sox have allowed them to stay in front as we work out way toward the bullpens.

Lester has retired six straight and has thrown 91 pitches through six. 

End 5th, Red Sox 4-2: Rodrigo Lopez, up against the ropes early against a host of hitters who have owned him in the past, has quietly set down five in a row. He has recorded 11 outs through the air.

Mid 5th, Red Sox 4-2: There has been some pretty good leather flashed around in this one, the latest highlight-reel play coming from Marco Scutaro, who dove to his backhand side to snag a liner off the bat of Mark Reynolds.

The play helps Jon Lester work around a leadoff walk, his third free pass in the last two innings.

End 4th, Red Sox 4-2: Daniel Nava either forgot how many outs there were or misread a fly ball off the bat of David Ortiz. The ball was caught on the warning track in left and Nava is easily doubled off second to end a Red Sox threat. We'll learn later what the issue was there, but it wasn't pretty and took that bat out of the hands of Kevin Youkilis with a runner in scoring position.

Next time you watch Nava hit, notice what he does when he steps out. If he is hitting lefty, he will often take a mini practice cut as if he were batting right-handed and then switch his grip back.

He has also done this on the other side. At first I thought he was so geeked up because of his amazing debut and simply did it out of nervousness, but it seems to be a standard thing for him.

That's all. Just thought I would point it out.

Mid 4th, Red Sox 4-2: It was a struggle in the fourth for Jon Lester, who walked two and allowed a single to load the bases with one out. He strikes out Rusty Ryal and gets Chris Snyder to fly to center to keep the Diamondbacks off the board.

This might be one of those nights where Lester needs to grind through things and just give his team a chance to win. He does not have his best control, nor do his pitches have the usual bite. Still time for him to find it, however.

End 3rd, Red Sox 4-2: Rodrigo Lopez gets knocked all around the park in the third, and if not for the defensive play of the night to rob Victor Martinez of extra bases, it could've been a lot worse.

Dustin Pedroia led off with a single (he is now 12-for-22 in his last six games) and stole second. David Ortiz walked.

After Kevin Youkilis struck out, Martinez hit one some 400 feet to center, where Chris Young leaped to haul in a spectacular catch for the second out, banging hard against the wall.

It looked as if Lopez might escape without allowing a run, but J.D. Drew managed to get one past Young in left-center to drive in Pedroia and Ortiz came in on Adrian Beltre's infield hit.

Mid 3rd, 2-2: Jon Lester settles in a bit in the second, sandwiching his first two strikeouts around a broken-bat bleeder to short.

Lester is trying for the second time to pick up career win No. 50.

End 2nd, 2-2: A leadoff single by Adrian Beltre does nothing for the Sox. Two flies to center and a groundout by Marco Scutaro (the old 1-4-3 putout) get Rodrigo Lopez through the second.

Mid 2nd, 2-2: The ball is flying out to left with a stiff breeze headed that way, but Justin Upton's bomb off Jon Lester didn't need any assistance from the elements. It was a belt-high fastball that Upton crushed out onto Lansdowne Street.

Lester gave up three hits in the inning, each of them hit pretty hard. A 1-4-3 double play helped him escape any further harm.

The southpaw has now given up eight runs in his last six innings overall.

End 1st, Red Sox 2-0: Marco Scutaro returns to the lineup and improves to 7-for-10 against Rodrigo Lopez with a leadoff single, Dustin Pedroia improves to 11-for-21 (.524) in his last six games with a two-run shot to left.

It is Pedroia's first home run since May 14, a span of 28 games.

Lopez also walked a batter and threw 24 pitches in the inning. The current Red Sox lineup is batting .367 (40-for-109) against him.

Mid 1st, 0-0: In addition to being on pace to walk more batters than he ever has, Jon Lester has now hit six batters with a pitch this year, well ahead of his career-high pace (10 in 2008). Mark Reynolds is the latest victim, taking a Lester slider off his back foot.

Adam LaRoche followed with a hard grounder ticketed for center field but Dustin Pedroia made a pretty snag and threw to first in plenty of time.

7:11 p.m.: Not even a threat of rain as Jon Lester strides to the rubber to face Kelly Johnson. We are underway.

6:33 p.m.: I'm not much of a gamblin' man, but it's hard not to lay it all on the line with the Sox in this one. While Jon Lester is 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA in his last five home starts, the Diamondbacks have lost 11 straight on the road.

The 11-game losing streak away from home ties a franchise record for Arizona.

Here are a few other numbers heading into Wednesday night's contest:

  • The Sox lead the majors with an 87-46 record in interleague play since 2003.
  • Boston also tops baseball in hits (639), doubles (165), slugging percentage (.465) and total bases (1,073).
  • Dustin Pedroia has doubled in seven straight home games, tied for the longest streak in club history (Wade Boggs, 1983).
  • Arizona leads the National League with 139 doubles, is second in walks (249) and third in home runs (78).
  • The D-Backs are four wins shy of reaching 1,000 in franchise history. Provided they get those four victories in the next 96 games, they will be the second-fastest expansion-era team to reach that mark.
  • Due to an atrocious bullpen, Arizona is just 2-6 when tied after six innings, 3-10 when tied after seven innings and 1-8 when tied after eight innings.

6:04 p.m.: The radar looks pretty good and the rain has come to a stop here at Fenway, prompting the tarp to be peeled away and hopefully packed up for good.

5:20 p.m.: Before another trip down to the clubhouse to see what is happening, here are a few more updates from Terry Francona.

Daisuke Matsuzaka threw from about 150 feet Wednesday afternoon and may be able to do a side session Thursday, very promising news.

Josh Beckett's progression will be a bit slower, but he is moving forward. He also did some long toss Wednesday, but no bullpen work is in store as of yet.

That's not to say Beckett is not feeling a whole lot better.

"That was the best news for us with him, the look on his face," Francona said. "He's confident. That doesn't mean we're gonna skip the progression, but when he starts feeling good like that, we need that."

The club does not expect any issues going forward with Marco Scutaro, who was itching to get on the field Tuesday night but was kept on the bench to let his cortisone shot do its thing.

"I don't think that would've made a lot of sense" Francona said of the decision to not play his regular shortstop. "You go to that length to give him a shot for the long haul, I think that would've been a mistake to play him yesterday."

The Sox manager also talked at length about not only the injuries, but also the use of the bullpen, and how he works his way through all the bumps, bruises and need for rest.

"A couple of things come into play," he said of dealing with injured position players. "One is, can they be productive enough to stay in the lineup? Two, who is replacing them? And are you hurting them by playing them. We're always trying to remind ourselves of the big picture but we want to win every night. So you just try to combine all those and use good judgment."

We have plenty more to share with you but have to step away. Back in a bit with more tidbits.

5:04 p.m.: And here comes the tarp! The skies have opened, BP is done, and L.L. Bean will get a few more visits as its sponsorship of the tarp takes center stage. Updates to come, but we may be in for a long ride.

4:56 p.m.: The Sox are on the field taking batting practice but the rain has started. We will likely get an update on the weather going forward, so make sure to check back.

4:32 p.m.: We have received updates on a few injuries and confirmation that Felix Doubront will start Friday, provided nothing drastically changes. All that is down the road a bit. Here is a more immediate piece of news, the lineups for the Sox and Diamondbacks:

Red Sox

Marco Scutaro, SS
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
Victor Martinez, C
J.D. Drew, RF
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Mike Cameron, CF
Daniel Nava, LF

Diamondbacks

Kelly Johnson, 2B
Tony Abreu, SS
Mark Reynolds, 3B
Adam LaRoche, 1B
Chris Young, CF
Miguel Montero, DH
Justin Upton, RF
Rusty Ryal, LF
Chris Snyder, C

2:17 p.m.: The skies are somewhat hazy over Fenway Park right now, but some wet stuff may be here soon. There is a good chance of showers and thunderstorms, with the probability increasing into the evening hours.

Last night, games in several cities, including Chicago and Cincinnati, were delayed by rain but did finish up later. It would not be a surprise to see a similar kind of night here.

We expect to have more on the reported decision to start Felix Doubronton Friday in Daisuke Matsuzaka's spot in the rotation. We have discussed Doubront's ascension in the system quite a bit, and theorized that he would be the logical choice to get the call.

Doubront has had a handful of really good springs since joining the organization, none better than this one in Fort Myers, when he hung around the big league camp for a bit and impressed particularly in one start against Tampa Bay's regulars.

I remember sitting behind home plate for that one and admiring Doubront's poise against the Rays starters, who hammered the rest of the Red Sox pitching staff in March.

Josh Beckett is currently out throwing in the right field with pitching coach John Farrell right now. He seems to be making some good progress as he works his way back from a lower back strain.

9 a.m.: Jon Lester will look to remain dominant at home when he leads the Red Sox into another interleague matchup with the Diamondbacks on Wednesday.

Lester is 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA in his last five home starts. He is coming off a rocky outing — on the road, of course — where he gave up six runs in six innings of an 8-7 loss to Cleveland.

The young southpaw has never faced the Diamondbacks, but is 5-1 in 10 interleague starts.

First pitch is 7:10 p.m.

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