Closing Time: Jon Lester tosses gem in San Francisco

DJ Bean
August 19, 2013 - 9:17 pm

In a showdown of one-time aces trying to recapture past success, Jon Lester easily outdueled Tim Linecum with 8 1/3 strong innings as the Red Sox beat the Giants, 7-0, in the opener of a three-game series at AT&T Park. The win allowed the Red Sox to remain atop the AL East all by themselves on a night in which the Rays defeated the Orioles. The Red Sox got to Linecum with three runs in the first two innings before adding another in the fifth and chasing him after five innings and 104 pitches. Lester, meanwhile, allowed six hits over 8 1/3 innings as he picked up his first win of the month of August and 11th of the season. After allowing four hits through the first eight innings, Lester could be seen saying "I'm finishing the game" as he walked off the mound. He was given the chance to do so, but after recording the first out of the bottom of the ninth and allowing back-to-back hits to Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, he was replaced by Brandon Workman. Driving in runs for the Red Sox were Will Middlebrooks, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Daniel Nava. Xander Bogaerts, whom the Sox recalled following Sunday's game against the Yankees, did not make his major league debut. WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX -- In a season that has seen enough ups and downs to warrant discussion as to whether he belongs in the playoff rotation, it had to be encouraging for Lester to turn in a very clean and efficient performance. In addition to the six hits he allowed, Lester walked two batters and saw a runner reach on an error. Lester managed just three strikeouts, but the number of ground balls he induced with efficient at-bats allowed him to enter the eighth inning with just 92 pitches thrown. He threw 115 pitches on the night. Though he had not picked up a win since July 28, Lester's performance Monday did mark the third straight start in which he pitched into or past the seventh inning. In his last three starts, Lester has allowed a total of three runs over 21 2/3 innings. -- With Lester at the plate and squaring to bunt with runners on first and third and one out, Lincecum gifted the Sox a run by balking on his first attempted pitch of the at-bat. It appeared as though Lincecum got tripped up a bit during his delivery, so he held onto the ball and stepped off the mound, scoring Nava from third and advancing Drew to second. Lester would bunt Drew over to third, setting him up to score on a Victorino single. Additionally, the Red Sox got a run out of a wild pitch, as a miscue from Guillermo Moscoso allowed Ellsbury to score in the sixth inning. -- Saltalamacchia had a strong showing at the plate with a single, a double, an RBI and a pair of runs scored. -- Though he has no RBI to show for it, Victorino now has seven hits over his last three games, including a pair of doubles. Victorino went 3-for-4 with an RBI and was hit by a pitch. WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX -- David Ortiz was 0-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts. With the Sox playing in a National League park, Ortiz was at first base in place of Mike Napoli. John Farrell indicated prior to the series that Ortiz would play first base in two of the three games against the Giants. -- Dustin Pedroia's night at the plate got off to a rough start, as he struck out looking in the first inning and grounded into a pair of double plays, ending the top of the fourth inning and hitting into the first two outs of the sixth inning. However, in his fifth at-bat Pedroia hit a ball past Hunter Pence in right field that allowed him to race to third base for a standup triple. Pedroia finished the night 1-for-5. -- Drew made his second error of the month when he failed to cleanly field a grounder from Pence in the bottom of the fifth inning. That isn't the best timing for Drew, as he now has to worry about Bogaerts nipping at his heels. He did have a pair of hits and a run batted in, giving him RBIs in his last three games. -- He had a fine day at the plate with an RBI sacrifice fly and a pair of walks and a hard-hit ball to deep left field in his fourth at-bat, but Middlebrooks' hit streak ended at eight games Monday. In picking up his 30th RBI of the season, Middlebrooks continued to show that he has been a different player than the one the Sox sent to Pawtucket in mid-June. Since being recalled earlier in the month, the 24-year-old has gone 12-for-26 with five RBI and a homer. -- Giants leadoff man Andres Torres was really the only player with whom Lester had significant difficulty, as the San Francisco outfielder picked up three of the four hits Lester allowed on the night. The Giants only had two runners reach second base (Brett Pill both times), and both occurrences came from Torres advancing him.