So around the sixth inning tonight, Jon Lester told pitching coach John Farrell that he wasn’t feeling very well because of the heat.
It was 102 degrees at first pitch tonight, one degree off the record at Rangers Ballpark. As I write this now, at 11:28 p.m,. it’s 92.
But Lester stayed in the game and ended up throwing 109 pitches over eight shutout innings as the Chumbawamba Red Sox (they get knocked down, but they get up again) beat the Rangers 3-1.
Terry Francona praised Lester’s determination to stay in the game. But Lester shooed away questions about how he felt.
“It is what it is,” he said.
Well, not quite. The Rangers have the largest lead of any division leader in baseball and average 5.5 runs a game at home. Lester allowed five hits and struck out five without a walk. His best work came in the seventh when Nelson Cruz tripled with one out and he escaped the jam.
Lester had a great cutter tonight and mixed his breaking stuff in well. He has four pitches and he used them all. All that while suffering borderline heatstroke on a night when the bullpen was tapped. That’s one tough hombre.
“We needed him to go out there and pitch exactly how he did,” Francona said.
The ninth inning was interesting. Scott Atchison was the closer du jour and he allowed a home run by Josh Hamilton with one out. When Vlad Guerrero singled, Francona summed rookie Felix Doubront to face lefty pinch hitter Mitch Moreland.
The Sox had Mike Lowell play behind Guerrero, hoping that Doubront’s quickness to the plate would take away the threat of a stolen base.
But Guerrero, in a fairly reckless move, took off. He has tried nine stolen bases this season, four against the Sox. Victor Martinez’s throw was a bit off line, but Marco Scutaro made a great tag for the second out.
Doubront, up 0-2 on Moreland, wasted a fastball away then threw a slider for a called third strike and his first career save.
Doubront was a little taken aback in July when reporters asked him about the idea of pitching out of the bullpen, saying he wanted nothing to do with it. But he has taken to it well.
In four appearances (and 3.2 innings), he has struck out six without a walk.
“I’m enjoying it. I’m excited to be a reliever now,” Doubront said. “I like the challenge. Coming in for the seventh of eighth inning, that pressure makes me feel good. It’s pretty good for me.”
It’s certainly good for the Sox. Hideki Okajima was no help and lefties are 8 for 22 against Dustin Richardson. Doubront could be the answer for the rest of the season.
Thanks to everybody for reading the blog. If you caught the concert at Fenway tonight, drop a comment and tell us how it was. Thanks also to Dan Hickling, who kept Extra Bases updated on Dustin Pedroia.
We’ll be back at it tomorrow.