Red Sox Get Another Boost From Bullpen in Win Over Toronto After Jon Lester’s Early Exit


Jul 6, 2011

BOSTON — In a span of two days, the Red Sox saw John Lackey struggle through another miserable afternoon at Fenway Park and then have to fend off questions about his health. They also arranged to fly Clay Buchholz to North Carolina to see a back specialist.

Then, in a cruel twist for a rotation suddenly hanging by a thread, they watched as Jon Lester departed a game against the Toronto Blue Jays after just four innings due to a strained left latissimus muscle, an injury that could cause him to hit the disabled list.

Speculation will abound as to what this means to the overall state of the team. General manager Theo Epstein told NESN in the hours before Lester’s injury that the team might focus its energies as the trade deadline approaches to position players.

Through it all, one "positive" has emerged in the form of a spotlight now shining on a bullpen that has been dominant of late and was the driving force behind a 3-2 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday.

After Lester left, Matt Albers threw two scoreless innings, the fifth time he has done that this season. Franklin Morales tossed a perfect seventh to remain unscored upon since coming off the disabled list last month. Daniel Bard extended his major league-high scoreless streak to 16 1/3 innings by working the eighth.

OK, Jonathan Papelbon nearly blew the save and may have benefited from a generous call to lock down save No. 18, but the two runs he gave up were the first he has surrendered in a month.

Over the course of two days in which the starters have given Boston a grand total of 6 1/3 innings, six different relievers (two of whom have pitched in both games) have allowed three earned runs in 11 2/3 frames.

Essentially, they've saved the team.

"It was huge because Lester was so good," manager Terry Francona said of the relief effort. "Three-run lead, he was in charge of the game. The way he was throwing it seems like more. Albers comes in. Morales, Bard, they did a great job.

"Pap, he left a ball up to [Jose] Bautista but about 30 other guys have done that this year. He held on. We make a good defensive play and win."

Lester, upset he could not finish what he started, marveled at the work his teammates did to preserve the lead.

"You tip your hat to those guys," he said. "They did a great job."

That work has actually been going on for some time now — Boston's pen has posted a 2.36 ERA since the beginning of the last homestand, a span of 17 games.

With many members of the rotation either struggling or hurt, that work becomes even more important.

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