Lester’s struggles get worse (4 IP, 11 R) in blowout by Blue Jays
It was difficult to say which implosion was harder to watch Sunday.
Was it Adam Scott’s final four holes (all bogeys) in the British Open or Jon Lester’s first two innings (9 runs, 6 hits, 3 homers, 3 walks, 1 wild pitch on 55 pitches) in a 15-7 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park?
They were equally hideous to behold.
In Lester’s case, it was another in a disturbing pattern of highly flawed outings, the lefthander suffering the worst start of the worst season of his career.
“We want him to get better,’’ Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. “He’s a great pitcher, a great guy, and I feel this as much as he does. I know he’s taking it tough.’’
Over his last three starts, all losses, Lester has been unable to pitch more than 4⅓ innings, allowing 21 earned runs on 25 hits and five home runs.
“It’s never good,’’ Lester said. “It’s embarrassing.’’
Lester (5-8) established career highs by allowing 11 earned runs and four home runs and matched another career high with five walks before he departed with no outs in the fifth after Travis Snider hit a two-run homer to straightaway center that made it 11-4.
With a six-game road trip looming against Texas and New York, the Red Sox (48-48) were swept by the Blue Jays and traded places with Toronto at the bottom of the American League East, dropping 9½ games behind the Yankees (57-38).
“I’ve let my team down a lot this year,’’ said Lester, who did so from the start Sunday when Brett Lawrie clobbered a homer over the Green Monster on the first pitch of the game, triggering a five-run eruption on four hits.
“It’s hard for me to walk around this clubhouse and look guys in the eye right now,’’ Lester said. “I’m not pitching well and I’m not doing my job. We scored seven runs today. We should’ve won this game.
“So, like I said, it’s embarrassing, and that’s all I can really say about that.’’
Lester earned the ignominious distinction of becoming the first Red Sox pitcher to allow 11 runs in a game since Doug Bird on May 24, 1983, a year before Lester was born.
When Lester left the game, and the crowd of 37,737 lustily booed him on his way to the dugout, it seemed apparent that when Franklin Morales recently was sent back to the bullpen, the Sox may have dispatched the wrong lefty.
Asked if he was considering any changes to the rotation, Valentine replied, “This is no time to discuss those things.’’
Lester’s teammates were quick to rally around him.
“However many starts he has the rest of the way, we’re not going to win the World Series if Jonny is not himself and if I’m not myself,’’ said Dustin Pedroia, who gave Lester a pep talk in the dugout after the first inning.
“He’s not going anywhere. He’s our horse. We love him and I’ll play behind him any day of the week. I just wanted him to make sure he knew that because everybody goes through tough times, we all do.
“There’s times when you’re not playing well, or I’m not swinging the bat well, or whatever — it’s just good to have a reassurance from your teammates that we’ve got your back.’’
After Lester gave up five runs in the first, the most he’s allowed in any frame since giving up six in the second inning at New York Sept. 24, 2011, the Sox got three back in their half on three hits.
Adrian Gonzalez delivered a three-run homer to right on an 0-and-2 offering from Toronto starter Henderson Alvarez, who got out of the inning by inducing Cody Ross to ground to the mound and by striking out Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
The Blue Jays, however, roughed up Lester for four more runs in the second on two hits and two walks, including back-to-back homers by J.P. Arencibia, who belted a three-run shot to left-center, and Rajai Davis, who drove a 3-and-2 pitch to the Monster seats to make it 9-3.
“I have never seen an offense been put in such positions as our offense has been put in, battling from the start of the game,’’ Valentine said. “I’m proud of them, because they keep battling back and they keep scratching away and keep fighting, but it’s not fair.’’
Mike Aviles, back in the lineup after turf toe kept him out of Saturday night’s game, lofted a sacrifice fly to right in the fourth that scored Gonzalez, who reached on a single to center and went to third on Saltalamacchia’s single to left. That made it 9-4.
After Snider’s two-run blast chased Lester and gave the Blue Jays a seven-run cushion, Jacoby Ellsbury, back in the lineup after taking the night off Saturday, took Alvarez deep to straightaway center in the fifth to make it 11-5.
After Junichi Tazawa relieved Lester and threw three scoreless innings, the Sox tacked on a pair in the sixth on RBI hits by Aviles (double to center) and Nick Punto (single to left) .
But in the eighth the Blue Jays erupted for four runs on six hits, the first four in a row off Mark Melancon, for the final margin of victory.
The Red Sox are 7-13 in the games Lester has pitched. Worse, they are 13-23 in the games Lester and Josh Beckett have pitched.
While his teammates tried to bolster him, there was no doubt Lester’s confidence was at its lowest point.
“It’s obviously not the highest that it’s ever been,’’ Lester said. “But the thing is, nobody is going to feel sorry for me. I’ve got to go out and pitch. I’ve got to pitch better.
“So I’m not worried about my confidence, I’m not worried about my mechanics, I’m not worried about anything but trying to execute pitches. And I’m not doing that.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.