The Boston Red Sox will enter this weekend's interleague series with a fresh bullpen thanks to Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester. After Buchholz went 8+ innings on Wednesday night, Lester one upped him by throwing a complete game in the 6-2 win.
It really couldn't have come at a better time for the Red Sox as the bullpen had been getting used a little more than Terry Francona would have liked. But when you get two quality starts like that, I'm sure the guys in the bullpen don't mind at all.
Lester started out this season like he did last year, struggling early on only turn it on when the calendar changed over to May. Lester started a day early this year since his final April start came on the 28th. In his last five starts since that date, he is 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 38 innings of work. He had given up 15 runs his first three starts and only eight in his last six. Overall on the season, Lester is 4-2 with a 3.47 ERA.
When Lester is on, he's virtually untouchable, especially when he has command of his cut fastball. Last night, Lester had great velocity on his fastball and command of all of his pitches. And just like Buchholz on Wednesday night, Lester got most of his outs via the ground ball (13 in all).
The other thing that I noticed about Lester was pace. He didn't dilly dally on the mound at all. He'd take the sign, throw the pitch, get the ball and throw the pitch (repeat, wash, rinse, repeat). When you're playing behind him, you have to love that. Plus mentally when you're in that rythmn, it keeps you focused on the task at hand.
When the season started, everyone was worried about where the runs would come from. The media and experts said the Red Sox had no power. Well folks, the Red Sox are currently second in the American League with 58 home runs behind the Toronto Blue Jays who have 66. They are third in the AL in runs scored with 219 (Yankees have 237, Rays have 225).
On the flip side though, they are 13th in pitching with a 4.78 ERA and have allowed an AL-high 222 runs. They are tied six overall defensively in the AL with 27 errors committed. Of course, Theo Epstein promised Red Sox Nation that the team would be better defensively and that would lead to fewer runs scored against.
Obviously, the pundits got it all around but one thing they all got right was the fact that nobody expected this start from the Red Sox. But they seem to be improving. They bounced back from a crushing defeat on Monday night when you could have said well this could end the season. Instead they came out battling on Tuesday night and pulled off the come-from-behind win and then went out and took two games from the AL Central-leading Twins.
The Red Sox did get some good news on Thursday night as they said that Jacoby Ellsbury will return to the team and lineup on Saturday night. Ellsbury had three hits and a stolen base in a rehab start on Thursday with the Portland Sea Dogs. He even tested his sliding ability to make sure the ribs would be okay. Since Jonathan Van Every has an option left, he's the likely candidate to be sent down to make room for Ellsbury.
We'll be back later with the lineups for tonight's interleague game against the Philadelphia Phillies, the batter/pitcher matchups and any news and links from the day.
For more slices of Boston Red Sox goodness, head over to the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, ESPN Boston, NESN, Providence Journal and WEEI websites.
And if you must check out the enemy papers, head over to the Minneapolis Star Tribune
and St. Paul Pioneer Press