Some timely hitting from Ian Kinsler (2-for-5) and Hamilton (2-for4) did the damage, while aside from a Will Middlebrooks pinch-hit homer Boston couldn’t muster much up.
Lester drops to 5-10 on the season and while he looks improved, he could still use some work. It will be interesting to see how the Sox respond on Wednesday with Beckett taking the hill.
Mid 9th, Rangers 6-3: The Rangers added another one in the top half with a pair of singles to extend the lead to 6-3.
Andrus drove in the run with a bloop single and Hamilton followed with a single of his own, but Tazawa was able to close things out.
The highlight of the inning, though, was a pretty sweet play from Ciriaco as a pickoff attempt went awry and nearly gave Gentry third base. No. 77 looked like a wide receiver laying out over the middle, as a few guys in the press box joked. The dive was impressive, and if it weren’t preventing such an awful error it would probably be a top play.
End 8th, Rangers 5-3: Even the middle of the Sox lineup couldn’t get a legitimate rally going against this bullpen.
Crawford, Pedroia and Ross all went down on strikes, with a Gonzo double off the monster mixed in between, and Boston heads into the ninth clinging to small sliver of hope.
Dustin Pedroia nearly got tossed after a stare down and shouting match with the first base umpire, following a controversial strike-three call.
Craig Breslow is in for Melancon, who allowed one earned over 1 1/3 innings.
Mid 8th, Rangers 5-3: Josh Hamilton worked a questionable walk to leadoff the inning, and Nelson Cruz made Mark Melancon pay for a missed fastball to extend the Rangers lead.
Middlebrooks home run seemed to be just what the doctor ordered for Boston, but the pitchers remain unable to slow down this Texas offense.
Melancon ramped it up after the run, though, getting both Michael Young and Soto to sit down by way of the K.
Now with a two-run lead, the Rangers just need their bullpen to hold course with the Boston bats, which haven’t truly been seen — aside from Middlebrooks blast — since the second inning.
End 7th, Rangers 4-3: An error definitely cost Texas in the bottom of the 7th, as a pinch-hit home run brought this one back within one run.
With Salty on second and Kalish out on first — thanks to Kinsler’s botched backhand attempt, Will Middlebrooks came in as a pinch hitter and belted a three-run home run to bring Boston back within one run.
The call was a close one as a fan reached over the monster to make the grab, but it looks like this one will stand.
Ultimately after giving my seal of approval, the umps agreed and decided to stick with the HR call. that means it’s Middlebrooks 14th jack of the year, still one more than Youkilis.
That blast marked the end for Dempster too as Texas elected to bring out Robbie Ross to finishing things off.
Mid 7th, Rangers 4-0: Jon Lester couldn’t make it all the way through the seventh, as Texas extended their lead.
Michael Young worked a walk to get things going but it was the combination of Soto and Kinsler that ultimately gave the Rangers and additional two-run lead.
Soto moved Young over and Daniel Murphy did his part again with a sacrifice that scored the DH. Then a another Kinsler bomb off the monster added to the deficit and gave Texas and the dominant Dempster a commanding 4-0 lead.
It was unfortunate for Lester, too, after he looked to have his best stuff of the season through five innings. But the final two he just lost control of the strike zone and clearly it came back to bit him.
End 6th, Rangers 2-0: Dustin Pedroia worked his way on base but even a blast from adrian Gonzalez couldn’t find its way into the gap and the Sox remain down 2-0.
Maybe it’s Dempster’s odd hand motions during his wind up, but for some reason the Red Sox are just befuddled by his location on Tuesday.
They’ll need some more pop from the middle of their lineup to get something going soon, as Lester may not be able to hold on much beyond this inning.
Mid 6th, Rangers 2-0: The Rangers strike first, as Ian Kinsler’s single off the monster drove in the night’s first run and Josh Hamilton single added another off Lester.
Daniel Murphy led the inning off with a double — should have been triple — to deep right field. But a miscommunication with the third base coach nearly saw the Rangers miss out on their best opportunity of the night. Kinsler made sure that wasn’t the case with a near two-run jack over the wall.
Hamilton did some damage of his own, fighting off a 2-2 curveball for a bloop single to right which scored Kinsler on the play.
End 5th, 0-0: The pitching duel continues.
Ryan Dempster struck out two — Kalish and Punto — in the fifth to bring his total to six on the night. His season high for K’s is 10, but he did that all the way back on Opening Day with the Cubs.
The impressive part of Dempster’s dominance with his power pitches is that he’s done it in an efficient fashion, throwing just 68 pitches through five.
Same as Lester, though, his offense just isn’t backing him up.
Mid 5th, 0-0: Jon Lester actually found himself in some trouble in the fifth. But he quickly found his way out of it.
After two seemingly effortless outs to start the inning, Michael Young sent a blooping single to right for Texas’ second hit of the night. But after a wild pitch sent Young to second, Lester settled in and got Soto on strikes.
The rebound was promising as Lester has struggled to respond in tense situation as of late.
Just 63 pitches in, Lester should have at least two more innings in him. Hopefully they’re all as promising and quality.
End 4th, 0-0: Cody Ross is doing his part to steady the Sox offense, but the rest of the attack seems stagnant at the moment.
Ross doubled for the second time in as many at bats on Tuesday night, drilling the wall with yet another dent out in left-center field. But the outfielder was stranded on the paths, as the other Boston bats were unable to drive him around.
Aside from a few early-inning errors and Ross’ apparent knack for knocking him around, Dempster seems to be a rhythm. It may take some small ball from Bobby Valentine and Co. in order to get a run across in this one.
Mid 4th, 0-0: Nick Punto has been busy in the field so far on Tuesday night, and he’s not letting Jon Lester down.
Lester, who has now induced eight groundballs to the 12 batters he’s faced, has seen a good deal of his breaking balls taken to the left side of the infield.
Punto backed up his pitcher in the fourth with three straight putouts to first base, keeping the game at a deadlock 0-0.
Lester looks to be in rare form, something not seen for at least a few months really. Even with just a pair of K’s, at this rate Lester could be in for a long stint on the bump and maybe even his best start of the season.
End 3rd, 0-0: Ryan Dempster seemed to be struggling in the first two innings, but if the third was any indication then he’s certainly settled down nicely.
After allowing eight earned runs over 4 2/3 innings in his first start with the Rangers last week, Dempster allowed three high-flying balls to carom off the Monster. But holding the Red Sox scoreless must have instilled some added confidence as he’s looking more and more like the guy who Texas paid a bundle for at the deadline.
This could well turn into an epic pitchers duel if both Dempster and Lester continue with their unhittable dominance.
Mid 3rd, 0-0: Lester spins another gem of an inning and looks to be in command of this Texas offense, at least in the early going.
No. 31 finished off the Rangers bottom three batters in just 14 pitches in the third, bringing his count to a mere 38 through three.
He’s been very consistent with his location, especially on his fastball, and seems to be inducing a lot of ground balls with his breaking ball — five of nine outs have come by way of ground balls.
If Lester continues at this pace the Rangers could be in for a very long night. The only question now is whether the offense can pick ip the slack for their starter.
End 2nd, 0-0: Another early opportunity is squandered by the Sox.
Cody Ross belted a double off the Green Monster on the first pitch of the inning, but it all went for naught.
Saltalamacchia, Aviles and Kalish were all unable to contribute to the cause, sending Lester back to the mound to deal all square at zeros.
Salty’s strikeout wasn’t just disheartening for the current inning, though, but more so for his confidence. The young catcher has now K’d 15 times in the last 10 games, which is astounding given that he has just seven hits and has reached base only 12 times in that stretch… Yikes!
Could it be Shoppach’s turn to take the reigns? Or better yet, Lavarnway?
I’ve been saying this for weeks, but .226 just ain’t cutting it at the dish. And there could be a better, more reliable option sitting right there on the bench.
Mid 2nd, 0-0: Mike Aviles can do it all.
While many maligned the career utility man as unfit for the everyday shortstop job before the season, Aviles has been superb for much of the year at short. And he showed it yet again in the second.
After making a solid putout on a Beltre grounder to the left side, Aviles had to play a really tough hop off of Michael Young’s bat later in the inning and turned the double play by himself to boot.
Lester allowed a single up the middle to Nelson Cruz in the frame, but he’s maintained solid velocity — around 94, 95 — and is hitting his spots.
End 1st, 0-0: What looked to be an early rally, ended as merely a missed opportunity.
Carl Crawford extended the Red Sox doubles streak as he nailed a two-bagger off the wall in left field. But while Crawford appeared ready for a little action on the basepaths, Ryan Dempster had something else in store.
A quick pickoff saw Crawford caught on the paths and meant that a subsequent Dustin Pedroia single to deep left didn’t result in a run after all.
As for Crawford, as much as the pickoff sucks, his recent splurge at the plate has been promising. That’s three doubles for him over the last two nights, and a whopping nine in the past 10 innings for the top four in the Sox order.
Mid 1st Inning, 0-0: Texas lineup is one of the best, and strongest, in baseball. But that didn’t matter for Jon Lester in the first inning.
Lester cruised through the top three hitters in the Rangers order, sitting down Kinsler with a strikeout to kick things off followed by a routine grounder to first from Andrus and a Josh Hamilton flyout.
Let’s see if the offense can get to Ryan Dempster early and help Lester maintain this high level.
The best part about that half inning was how efficient Lester was, though. The Sox starter threw just 12 pitches, including seven strikes, and steered clear of his typical early-inning trouble.
7:00 p.m.: Jon Lester is looking to keep his streak of solid starts alive. But that won’t be an easy task as the Sox are facing one of the best offenses in the majors this season.
After three straight starts of five innings or less, Lester has no gone six and eight innings, respectively, and is looking to notch another quality start under his belt.
It will be interesting to see if Ryan Dempster, in just his second game since being traded from the Cubs, can handle the pressure in Fenway Park and take down Lester.
Either way, there’s only one way to find out. So let’s get this baby going…
6:49 p.m.: Another pitching note, as Josh Beckett gets ready for his next start on Wednesday night.
Beckett, who was scratched from his last scheduled the start over the weekend with a back spasm, will step on the mound on Wednesday with a hope of turning his recent back luck around. And if all indications from Bobby Valentine are right, then there will be no leash on the 32-year-old starter.
“He’ll only be limited if his back hurts again. Otherwise, I don’t think he’ll be limited,” Valentine said of Beckett’s start.
That is a good sign for the Sox, too, as Beckett’s health and production could go a long way in helping this team break out on a run of wins before the end of the season.
6:24 p.m.: While the Red Sox continue to figure out their rotation (See: Morales, below), some other expected contributors to the staff could be making their way back to Boston soon.
Andrew Bailey, who has missed the entire 2012 season with a forearm injury, is continuing his rehab assignments and is even ready to pitch on consecutive days, according to Valentine.
“Andrew Bailey’s all set for back-to-back days,” the manager said optimistic that Bailey should be back in Boston soon.
But Daisuke Matsuzaka also seems to be readying for his own return to the Sox.
“Friday,” Valentine said of the next time Matsuzaka will be pitching for the Pawtucket Red Sox. “Hopefully the five-inning stuff and 90-something pitches.”
The addition of Bailey would help to sure up a recently topsy-turvy back end of the bullpen. But Daisuke’s return could present even more complications to an already uncertain rotation — given Morales, Aaron Cook and some other moving pieces.
5:58 p.m.: Franklin Morales was almost lights out on Sunday at Fenway Park, so much so that it looks like he’s nestled himself a more permanent spot in the rotation.
Bobby Valentine isn’t totally opposed to using Morales out of the bullpen in the next few days, though.
“I’m hoping we don’t have to use him,” Valentine said of Morales availability. “If it’s an emergency situation, he’s flexible enough to.”
As for his next scheduled start over the weekend in Cleveland, Valentine seemed optimistic saying, “I have him penciled in… [but] it’s not in ink yet.”
5:30 p.m.: The Red Sox have now won two in a row and are hoping to catch fire behind their suddenly steady offensive unit.
Jon Lester (5-9, 5.36 ERA), who has been much improved over his past two starts, will take the hill for the Sox in hopes of giving the Boston bats a chance to extend their current winning streak.
Ryan Kalish gets his fourth straight start for the Sox, getting the nod in right field and hoping to capitalize on his own show of power at the plate out of the No. 8 hole on Tuesday.
Check out the full lineups for both teams, below.
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Elvis Andrus, SS
Josh Hamilton, CF
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Nelson Cruz, RF
Geovany Soto, C
Daniel Murphy, LF
Mike Olt, 1B
Ryan Dempster, P
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Carl Crawford, LF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Cody Ross, DH
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Mike Aviles, SS
Ryan Kalish, RF
Nick Punto, 3B
Jon Lester, P
8 a.m. ET: July was clearly not kind to Jon Lester (5-9, 5.36), as the former ace was rocked for 33 hits and a 9.36 ERA in 25 innings pitched over the course of the month. At one point, Lester failed to go longer than 4 1/3 innings in three consecutive outings, leading many to wonder whether he would ever return to his formerly dominant self.
Well, Lester’s last time out gave some reason for optimism, but it didn’t necessarily address some of the long-term concerns the Sox must have about Lester. The results were certainly there, as the 28-year-old went eight innings, allowing seven hits and three earned runs while striking out seven. But Lester also continued to show some of the mechanical problems that may be behind his decline, continuing to drop his elbow and throw from a three-quarter angle, rather than over-the-top.
That kind of action causes his infamous cut fastball to resemble something closer to a slider with a flat vertical movement, making it a much more hittable pitch, and Lester a much less formidable opponent.
So, we’ll see which Lester shows up Tuesday night, as the Red Sox (55-55) prepare to take on the Texas Rangers (63-45) and their trade deadline newcomer Ryan Dempster (5-5, 2.82), who was rocked by Los Angeles (of Anaheim) to the tune of eight runs in his Rangers debut.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET, but you can tune into NESN beginning at 6 for all the pregame action, and we’ll have the lineups and other relevant info here in the hours before we play ball.