Searching for answers for how poorly his season's gone and certainly unable to find them after giving up the most runs he's allowed in his career this afternoon in the Red Sox's 15-7 loss to Toronto, Jon Lester walked slowly off the mound.
At that point, he had failed to get an out in the fifth inning after giving up his fourth home run of the night. He said nothing to Jarrod Saltalamacchia when the catcher made a trip to the mound, nothing to the infielder when they circled around him. He was stoic, wiping his face with his jersey and absorbing the same boos he had been hearing much of the season.
He allowed 11 runs runs, giving up nine hits, walking five and letting four different Blue Jays take him deep.
From the first pitch, Lester was in for a long day. He offered up a fastball at 1:37 to start things off. Brett Lawrie blasted it over the Monster at 1:37:01. It was the start of a five-run first-inning implosion for Lester, who also had a walk catch up to him and canceled out his own strikeout with a wild pitch allowing Travis Snider to reach and later score.
He gave up back-to-back home runs in the second inning, a three-run blast to JP Arencibia, then a follow-up by Rajai Davis.
Sox manager Bobby Valentine left Lester in for four-plus innings, but in the fifth Lester got a clear view of what the bottom looks like.
He started the inning off by walking Davis, then Snider took him for a ride, finally forcing Valentine to take the ball from him.
Top of the eighth, Blue Jays 15, Red Sox 7: The Jays hang four more runs up, and it's like they put them together on the assembly line. No extra base hits, just six singles, a couple sacrifices and some quality offensive baseball.
They have 17 hits as a team so far, nearly twice as many as the Sox.
Top of the seventh, Blue Jays 11, Red Sox 7: Junichi Tazawa struck out the side, cranking it up to 95 mph to get Jeff Mathis for his fifth strikeout of the day, a season-high.
Bottom of the sixth, Blue Jays 11, Red Sox 7: Ryan Sweeney caught a break when Davis lost his relatively routine fly ball in the sun. It dropped about five feet to his right, and Sweeney got a two-base it out of the misplay, snapping a streak of 15 hitless at-bats.
The Sox didn't let the miscue go to waste. Mike Aviles went off the Wall to drive Sweeney in for his 49th RBI of the season. Then Nick Punto went Wall (all TRavis Snider could do was throw his arm up as he ran back for it) and brought Aviles around.
After 5.2 innings, 104 pitches, 7 runs and eight hits, that was it for Alvarez.
Bottom of the fifth, Blue Jays 11, Red Sox 5: Jacoby Ellsbury hit his first home run of the season, and it makes Lester's start a little harder to swallow seeing the offense put up runs for him, when for much of the season he's gotten spotty run support (4.72 runs per nine innings).
Top of the fifth, Blue Jays 11, Red Sox 4: For Jon Lester, this has to be what the bottom looks like. After walking Rajai Davis and giving up a two-run blast to Travis Snider, he stood on the mound, not saying a word as his infield came in to surround him.
Valentine took the ball from him. He walked toward the dugout, wiping his face with his jersey.
His final line: 4-plus innings, 11 runs, 9 hits, five walks, two strikeouts, four homers.
It's the most runs he's given up in his career.
Bottom of the fourth, Blue Jays 9, Red Sox 4: Gonzalez got his second hit of the day, a leadoff single, and the Sox were able to bring him around.
Mike Aviles, who said he had no issues after sitting out with turf toe, skied one to right, sacrificing to score Gonzalez.
Still, a whole lot to a little bit.
Top of the fourth, Blue Jays 9, Red Sox 4: Yunel Escobar's rocket off the Wall was another in a line of hard-hit balls of Lester, who came out for the fourth and gave up a hit to the leadoff batter for the fourth straight inning.
He also walked Encarnacion for the second straight time today, but again got help from the defense when another double-play ball cut the inning short.
Bottom of the third, Blue Jays 9, Red Sox 3: After giving up that three-run shot to Adrian Gonzalez in the first, Alvarez has settled down. He won a 12-pitch battle with Jacoby Ellsbury by getting him to chase a fastball. Then he got Nava and Pedroia to both ground out to second.
Top of the third, Blue Jays 9, Red Sox 3:Jon Lester gave up a leadoff single, but stil got a three-up, three-down inning thanks to a sharp 6-4-3 double play from Aviles to Pedroia.
Bottom of the second, Blue Jays 9, Red Sox 3:Henderson Alvarez, who's given up seven runs in his past two starts and at times struggled with command recently, retired the Sox in order.
Top of the second, Blue Jays 9, Red Sox 3: Now, it's just getting bizarre. Lester walked Lawrie and Encarnacion then paid for it when Arencibia smoked one out to center and into the Monster seats.
It would have been bad enough if it had stopped there, but then Rajai Davis followed up with another homer and for a second Valentine didn't look to get anyone up in the bullpen.
Eventually, Junichi Tazawa got up, then sat back down. Lester struck out Snider to end the inning, but still heard boos as he walked back to the dugout.
Bottom of the first, Blue Jays 5, Red Sox 3: Jon Lester may have gotten a little bit of a bailout because Adrian Gonzalez happens to be swinging a light saber with runners in scoring position (39 of 95 for a Major League leading .411 average).
With Dustin Pedroia on first and Jacoby Ellsbury on third, Gonzalez crushed a 0-and-2 pitch from Henderson Alverez about 10 rows beyond the Red Sox bullpen.
Top of the first, Blue Jays 5, Red Sox 0: John Lester made his first pitch at 1:37. Brett Lowrie hit his eighth home run of the season at 1:37:01.
Of course, the boos for Jon Lester have picked up right where they left off after his last start.
He walked Yunel Escobar, Colby Rasmus reached on a bunt single, then the only thing that saved the inning from getting ugly was the fact that Edwin Encarnacion's rip to rightfield bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double, so only Escobar scored.
But there were still no outs that point. He was still in a jame when JP Arencibia grounded out to second, scoring Rasmus. Then Rajai Davis doubled in Encarnacion, leading manager Bobby Valentine to come out and try to settle Lester down.
He made more problems for himself, striking out Travis Snider on a wild pitch that Jarrod Saltalamacchia had to chase up the backstop. Snider sprinted to first to take advantage. And with one out and runners at first-and third, Jeff Mathis laid down a safety squeeze to capitalize score Davis.
Watching another brutal first inning, it's hard to figure out the kind of voodoo that must be on Lester.
As Mike Vega said, Lester's start was as ugly as Adam Scott's finish.
Pregame: The last time we saw Jon Lester, he was as sick as anyone of the way his poor outings were piling up. He's been frustrated for a while, now, but it's reached a point where Peter Gammons went on 98.5's "Felger and Mazz" and said that Lester has become so unhappy in Boston that a trade might be good for him.
When he left in the fourth inning after giving up six runs in what eventually became a 7-5 loss to the White Sox, he heard all the boos and described how embarrassing it was not only for himself but the people around him.
“Frustrating year, frustrating night,’’ he said. “It just keeps adding on. I’m getting tired of it. I try to make adjustments. I’m not getting results. A loss is a loss. I feel fine, I’ve just got to do a better job.’’
Lester denied the notion that he'd welcome a trade, but seemed resigned to talk that the team would consider trading him. Jason Varitek actually came to his defense during a stop on his celebration tour of Fenway Saturday. But suddenly there's a lot of weight on Lester for a late-July start against the Blue Jays.
He's 11-5 all time in 20 starts agains the Jays with a 3.20 ERA (1-1 with a 4.20 ERA this season). A lot's been clear about about the way Lester's malfunctioned this season -- his curveball isn't as effective, he's not getting swinging misses, his strikeouts are down, he's been downright unlucky at times (.331 batting average against on balls in play), and he hasn't pitched well against right-handers this season (they're hitting .286 with nine home runs., and the righties in Toronto's lineup have hit 63 home runs and driven in 202 runs) -- but it's been hard for Lester to figure out how to fix them.
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