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Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

Keeping Tabs on Greener Pastures

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AP Photo


This is the way it’s going to be the rest of the season for Red Sox fans.

How’d Jon Lester do? Did Jonny Gomes get a hit? How many times did Stephen Drew strike out?

Like keeping tabs on old girlfriends and boyfriends, it is already melancholy to watch the likes of Lester, Gomes, Drew, Andrew Miller, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront, and John Lackey playing elsewhere, and you don’t even have to stalk Facebook to find out how they’re doing.

In his debut with the Oakland A’s, Lester was decent (6 2/3 innings, nine hits, three earned runs) in a start that probably would have resulted in his eighth loss of the season were he still pitching in offense-deprived Boston. Instead, Oakland bats gave him something the Red Sox hadn’t all season - eight runs to work with - as Lester beat the Kansas City Royals, 8-3. Gomes had two base hits, drove in two runs and, of course, spouted rah-rah words of encouragement.

"The Coliseum was aware: Jon Lester is in the house," he said.

"This is my new family now," Lester said. "I'm going to go out there and bust my butt and hopefully I go out there and win more games like today and see where it can take us.”

Lester and Gomes thrilled A’s fans on Saturday, one day after they were announced in Oakland at a press conference where it seemed like the duo was delivering their final words before being ushered to the slaughterhouse. They looked miserable, despite going from last to first, joining a team in a genuine pennant race with the Angels in the AL West.

"I don't think it's any secret that Oakland A's fans have been waiting for a star-studded guy like this to come into the organization,” catcher Derek Norris said. “Usually, they're going out. They've traded guys like Lester for prospects coming in. So this is different. You could tell the fans were excited. We were, too. And I don't think he was all that sharp today. I think he felt a little rusty.”

Meanwhile, across the Bay, Giants fans watched their team Saturday night with fervent interest, as San Francisco was in the midst of a double no-hitter across the country at Citi Field between Mets rookie Jacob DeGrom and Peavy, who was perfect through 6 1/3.

Peavy's bid at perfection ended in the seventh when left fielder Michael Morse badly misjudged a ball. And here, Peavy thought he’d escaped playing with the likes of Gomes.

We imagine you can figure where this went next. Peavy ended up allowing four runs, as he lost his 11th decision in a row. DeGrom shook off losing his own no-hitter in the seventh, and went on to win his sixth game of the season.

"At the end of the day, you are trying to put up zeroes and their guy did an outstanding job. I did not do enough," Peavy said.

Another worst-to-first player didn’t have to travel cross-country, or even out of his own division to find meaningful baseball being played. Miller, the former, stellar Red Sox bullpen lefty, came into the Mariners-Orioles game Friday night at Camden Yards to a rousing ovation, inheriting a runner on first and one out in the eighth inning with the Orioles leading, 2-1. With Miller pitching, Dustin Ackley grounded into a force at second but beat the throw to first, bringing up Robinson Cano. Ackley then stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error by Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph. Miller walked Cano but forced Kendrys Morales into a grounder and got Cano out at second.

“I think we all want to pitch in big situations and help us win,” Miller said. “I certainly made it a little scary there, putting a guy on third. But at the end of the day, I got it done. That’s what matters.”

The Orioles now have a 2 1/2-game lead on the Toronto Blue Jays.

“You have some concern when you bring somebody in that hasn’t been in that atmosphere,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s not necessarily that we have more than somewhere else. It’s just that he’s used to the ballpark. He’s used to when we go into some other American League East cities.

“But I think that’s the thing you like about the trade, too. There’s not that period where he has to adjust to a lot of that.”

As for Doubront, he will report to the Cubs' spring training facility in Mesa, Ariz., next week and then make a couple of minor league rehab starts before joining the Cubs, according to the Chicago Tribune.

"I would like to be a part of this building process," said Doubront, who is 26-22 over five seasons. "And if they give me a chance to be around here, it's going to be a competitive team.”

The good news for Doubront is there is plenty of room in the starting rotation, where Chicago jettisoned Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s early last month.

Drew had an RBI double in Saturday’s 6-4 Yankees win at Fenway Park, where he has eight of his 12 extra-base hits this season. Yes, Drew was a key factor in helping New York beat his former team. How’s that for a kick?

"Given the circumstances, we hope it helps them," Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said on Thursday. "I like Stephen, we all like Stephen. He is a good player, it hasn't worked out the way any of us wanted it to, certainly not the way I wanted it to. Hope it works out for him there, and the Yankee thing wasn't an issue in that particular conversation.”

On Sunday, the final piece of the trade deadline puzzle falls into place as Lackey takes the hill for the Cardinals for the first time, which means the Red Sox will avoid their former hurler when they visit St. Louis this week. Lackey has already made plenty of friends in the Midwest (which, golly, gee, to be honest, isn't hard to do) by announcing he would, indeed, honor his contract for next season, when he’s due to make $500,000, the league minimum despite threatening retirement earlier this season.

Perfect. Just when you wanted to love Lackey.

Joe Kelly, the pitcher the Sox received in return for Lackey, will make his Boston debut Wednesday against his former team. Allen Craig had a double in his Fenway debut on Friday. Yoenis Cespedes hasn’t hit one into the Monster seats just yet, but he did have a base hit in his first game with the Red Sox on Saturday.

The Red Sox are fascinating for much different reasons than a week ago. But in absence of any sort of race here in Boston, it’s just as intriguing to hop on board the bandwagons of the other guys, the burning hot embers that scattered as a result of the Great Red Sox Explosion of 2014.

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