The Royals were prepared to have a tough night with the bats, the Red Sox were also not expecting a high-scoring game, what they got was a pitchers duel that held both teams scoreless until the bottom of the eighth. This night was all about the men on the mound.
Lefty Jon Lester has owned the Royals in his three (now four) starts against them. He came in with a 1.64 ERA against KC and brought it down tonight going 8 innings with 4 hits, 2 walks, and 8 strike-outs. He improved to 8-6 on the season and brought his ERA down to 3.87. And no one was more excited than Lester when Pedroia hit his RBI double in the 8th.
It is also interesting to note that 3 of the 4 hits given up by Lester were to lefty batter Mark Teahen.
Bannister had his way with the Red Sox as well. He went 7 2/3 innings allowing 3 hits, 1 earned run, 4 walks, and 7 strike-outs.
Jon Lester and Brian Bannister dueled it out into the eighth, holding each other’s teams scoreless* (see bottom of article for explanation, this has nothing to do with Barry Bond’s home run record) until the 8th when Dustin Pedroia ripped a two-out double off the monster to put the Sox ahead 1-0 in what would be the final score.
To complete the pitching clinic put on by both teams, Jonathan Papelbon, who has been shakier this season than he’s been in recent years, came on and pitched a perfect 9th.
Both Lester and Papelbon were locating pitches wherever they wanted to, and kept the Royals off-balance most of the game.
The most impressive thing to come out of the night was Jon Lester’s ability to tie up hitters. He was throwing breaking balls, cutters, fast-balls, curves, anything he wanted to and hitters were tied up, confused, and watching strikes go by all night. In previous years, and even in previous starts, Lester has had to rely on his cutter and fastball more, so this is a great sign of growth.
It reminds me of what Varitek said after he pitched the no-hitter last year. That was not Jon Lester’s peak. Far from it. We get to watch him grow and develop and mature as a pitcher right before our very eyes. And unlike some teams *cough* Yankees *cough*, many of our pitchers are home-grown, we didn’t pay a gazillion dollars to take them from another team.
Though it is funny to note that only ONE of the Yankees big money players (Sabathia, Texiera, and Burnett) made it into the All-Star game.
You know who did make it, and who should start if there was any justice in baseball? Tim Wakefield. He probably won’t, but it would be a really great thing.
One final note (to explain the asterisk):
*The Red Sox should have been up 1-0 in the 5th, when Mark Kotsay distracted the infield in a run down, Jacoby Ellsbury headed home from third. He slid in safe, very safe, if you watch the replay, but was called out.