As he stood in left field for the first five innings tonight, Jeremy Hermida wondered if there was any point to his being there. The way Jon Lester was pitching, it didn’t seem possible that anybody was going to get the ball out of the infield.
“I’ve never seen anybody that dominant,” Hermida said. “Nobody was getting a good swing against him. I said to [John] Lackey on the bench that I had never seen anything like that and he agreed.”
Of the first 16 batters who came to the plate for Seattle, 10 went down on strikes. It looked almost unfair.
“That was as good a stuff as we’ve seen all season,” Terry Francona said.
The first ball hit well was by Jack Wilson in the sixth inning, a line shot to the gap in left. It looked like a hit off the bat, but Eric Patterson raced over and got in front of it. But in one of the worst errors you’ll ever see, he let the ball pop out of his glove.
“I probably overran it a little bit,” Patterson said. “No excuse. No matter the situation, that ball has to be caught.”
Something changed in Lester at that moment. Five of the next 12 batters he faced reached base as Seattle went from the brink of infamy to a 5-1 victory.
There are no predetermined outcomes in baseball. But it would have been interesting to see what would have transpired had Patterson caught that ball for the second out of the seventh inning.
Intead, Lester left a a 2-2 curveball to Michael Saunders high in the strike zone and he crushed it to right field for a home run. No hitter gone, shutout gone, lead gone.
Then in the eighth inning, Lester appeared to tire. Milton Bradley led off with a triple before Wilson put down a suicide squeeze bunt.
The Sox knew it was coming and Lester threw a chin-high fastball. But Wilson got the bunt down and kept it fair.
A single, a walk and an RBI double followed.
The Red Sox try not to warm up relievers unless they will come into the game. But with Lester at 99 pitches before the 8th inning, it seemed risky to have him take the mound without somebody behind him getting ready. By the time Manny Delcarmen came in, it was too late.
Lester appeared furious after the game, and understandably so. He went from a perfect game to giving up four earned runs and taking a loss in what seemed like seconds.
Lester did not blame Patterson. While he was pitching out of the stretch for the first time when he faced Saunders, he felt he should have been able to get out of the jam.
“I hung a curveball to a guy I shouldn’t have,” he said.
The 13 strikeouts were a career high for Lester and the most by a Red Sox pitcher since Josh Beckett fanned 13 Rays on April 27, 2008. The last Red Sox lefty to strike out that many was Bruce Hurst, who struck out 14 Athletics on May 5, 1987.
A bigger concern is that the Red Sox had one run on five hits against David Pauley, Chris Seddon, Jamey Wright and Garrett Olson. Outside of David Ortiz’s solo home run in the fourth inning, they advanced four runners into scoring position.
“I don’t worry about that,” Lester said. “Just execute pitches and try and keep my team in the ball game and I didn’t do that tonight.”
As bad as the Mariners are, sweeping a four-game series on the road is tough to do. But the Red Sox had a pitcher on his game tonight and they could not take advantage of it on a day when the Yankees lost.
Now the Sox turn to Daisuke Matsuzaka to try and win the series before they leave for Anaheim and three games with the dangerous Angels.
Thanks to everybody for reading today. Check back for more tomorrow