Rapid Reaction: Rangers 18, Red Sox 3

April, 17, 2012

BOSTON -- In his first two starts, Jon Lester had been the victim of poor run support, which accounted for his 0-1 record despite a solid 2.40 earned run average.

In his third start, on Tuesday night, his teammates would have needed to score at least a touchdown and the extra point just to take him off the hook.

Red SoxRangersThe Red Sox left-hander suffered through an awful, abbreviated outing, tagged for seven earned runs in two-plus innings as the defending American League champion Texas Rangers spotted Boston a 2-0 first-inning lead on Dustin Pedroia’s third homer of the year and rolled to a, 18-3 triumph at Fenway Park.

Lester labored from the outset. He surrendered two hits in the first inning, but emerged unscathed when he got cleanup hitter Adrian Beltre to bang into a first-pitch double play.

But that was nothing compared to the torturous 49-pitch, four-run second inning he endured. And when he didn’t retire any of the three batters he faced in the third (single, walk, walk), Lester was yanked by manager Bobby Valentine.

Reliever Scott Atchison wasn’t terribly effective either, so three more earned runs were tacked onto Lester’s pitching line, adding up to seven earned runs and an ERA that ballooned to 5.82.

In the second, Lester’s mechanics betrayed him, causing him to miss consistently outside and often up to right-handed hitters, leading to a pair of walks and good hitters’ counts. Meanwhile, the Rangers crushed a few hits (including Mike Napoli’s two-run homer over the Monster to tie it), dunked a few, dribbled one and found a hole or two and took advantage of a misplay by left fielder Cody Ross. Suddenly the stunned Sox were down, 4-2.

And when Texas pushed across three more runs in the third, the Rangers, who had entered with an A.L.-best 8-2 record, were enjoying a 7-2 advantage. The game already was a foregone conclusion as it entered the eighth, but it became a real nightmare for the Sox, in particular pitchers Mark Melancon and Justin Thomas, who combined to cough up eight runs in the inning.

Melancon did most of the damage, retiring none of the six batters he faced and allowing three home runs.

Lester, who had received only one run of support in his previous 15 innings this season, threw 80 pitches Tuesday night. He had four 3-and-2 counts in the second inning (two singles, two walks) and two more in the third (single, walk).

“EYE” DON’T HAVE IT: Ross called off shortstop Mike Aviles on Josh Hamilton’s shallow fly to left with the bases loaded and one out in the second. But as the ball came down, Ross seemed to take his eye off the ball for a quick peek to see if the runner at third, Craig Gentry, was tagging (he wasn’t). And when the ball came down, it clanged off Ross' glove, allowing Gentry to score. Ross recovered in time to nail Ian Kinsler trying to reach third base, but Hamilton was credited with an RBI on what went into the scorebook as a 7-5 fielder’s choice. In the eighth, Ross also looked shaky on a liner by Ian Kinsler that went over his head, starting in a step before having to unsuccessfully retreat on what would have been a difficult play even if he had gotten a good jump.

“COUSIN” COLBY: Adrian Gonzalez owns Texas’ Colby Lewis. The Sox first baseman entered Tuesday night’s game boasting a sizzling .857 career batting average against the Rangers right-hander. In seven at-bats, Gonzalez had racked up six hits, including a pair of homers. In the first matchup Tuesday night, Lewis got ahead in the count at 0-and-2, but Gonzalez bounced the next pitch through the right side for a single, boosting his average to .875 against Lewis. That average took a dip to .700 after he flied to right in the third and flied to center in the fifth. Gonzalez homered in the eighth off reliever Koji Uehara.

“COUSIN” LESTER: Napoli owns Lester. Napoli, a catcher by trade who started Tuesday night’s game at first base, was 5-for-9 (.555) against the Sox left-hander, including a homer and three RBIs. In his first at-bat Tuesday night, Napoli padded his stats by crushing a two-run homer off Lester over the Green Monster in left-center. That made him a career. 600 hitter against Lester. He kept that average after drawing a walk off Lester in the third inning, one batter before Lester was lifted from the game.

BASERUNNING BLUNDER: Jason Repko, given a chance to make a name for himself in center field in Boston because Jacoby Ellsbury (right shoulder) is out for an extended period of time, did not endear himself to the team in the third. With the Sox trailing, 7-2, Repko ripped a base hit to left that one-hopped the wall, sending Ross, running from first base, scurrying to third. But Repko tried to stretch the hit into a double, a move that was ill-conceived given the score, and the decision looked even worse when Hamilton played the carom beautifully and threw to Kinsler for an easy third out on the embarrassed Repko.



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