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Deep thoughts not for Lester

Three home runs won’t change lefty

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / April 2, 2011

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jon Lester expressed equal parts excitement and honor when the Red Sox looked to their lefthander to get things going against the Texas Rangers, the defending American League champions.

But two pitches into it, things went horribly awry.

Texas leadoff man Ian Kinsler deposited a 1-and-0 fastball some 376 feet away into the left-field bleachers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington yesterday.

“It’s not the first time I’ve ever given up one of those and it won’t be the last,’’ Lester said. “Second pitch of the game, I’m going to throw a fastball. I’m not going to screw around. I’d rather give up a solo home run than a walk.’’

Kinsler was asked if he was looking for a fastball all the way?

“With him, you can’t really do that,’’ Kinsler said. “He’s got a cut fastball, he’s got a sinking fastball, and he’s got a straight fastball . . . and he’s able to throw them all for strikes, so you’ve got to be ready. But he made a little bit of a mistake there and I was able to capitalize on it.’’

It was the first of a career-high three homers Lester allowed in the Sox’ 9-5 season-opening setback.

Nelson Cruz hit a solo shot that tied the game at 2 in the second. In the fourth, Mike Napoli crushed a three-run homer that gave the Rangers a 5-4 lead. The homers greased the skids for Lester’s departure after he gave up a one-out single to Napoli in the sixth.

“Just didn’t go the way I wanted it to go, obviously,’’ Lester said after he was tagged for five runs on six hits.

He threw 88 pitches, but failed to record a strikeout for the second time in his career.

“I thought [my fastball] was all right,’’ Lester said. “Felt like I had a pretty good two-seamer today. For whatever reason, I couldn’t get any swings and misses. I don’t know what they’re approach was today, but we didn’t get a lot of swings and misses.

“For the most part, we got a lot of weak-hit ground balls, some weak fly balls, with the exception of the home runs.’’

Oh, those home runs.

While Sox manager Terry Francona said the second homer Lester gave up “got him mad,’’ Kinsler didn’t seem to think it rattled him.

“He’s not a guy who’s going to get frustrated out there,’’ Kinsler said. “He’s going to battle you. He’s going to battle all the way to his last pitch. That’s what he did today, but we were able to get to him and grind it out, and it was a good day for us, offensively.’’

Napoli was 3 for 6 against Lester — and that was before he went 2 for 3 yesterday and hit his first homer off the 19-game winner.

“I had a couple of singles here and there, but I’ve never really been able to drive the ball off him,’’ Napoli said. “He’s a great pitcher. I mean, you guys have seen him the past four, five years. He’s dominant. He’s well deserving of a No. 1 start, but we got him today.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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