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It seemed all too familiar heading into the ninth inning on Saturday night. The starter pitches a gem, leaving the bullpen to deliver the last three outs. What seems like an easy task, at least for most major league teams, has become Terry Francona’s White Whale. For the past two nights, the Red Sox looked high and low for a reliever that can hold a lead, but their search came up empty.
Until Saturday. After Scott Atchison surrendered a Josh Hamilton solo home run and a Vladimir Guerrero infield single, Felix Doubront came in and shut the door. Victor Martinez caught Vlad stealing and Doubront seemed to feed off the energy. He struck out Mitch Moreland to seal a 3-1 victory for the Sox and collect his first career save.
Jon Lester (13-7) was in the dugout for the bullpen’s last two meltdowns. With those defeats fresh in his memory, he took the hill and commanded respect for eight strong innings. He scattered five hits throughout eight scoreless innings, striking out five batters, and inducing 11 groundball outs.
Lester fought an uphill battle, with the Rangers’ hot bats and blistering Texas heat standing in his way. Even though it was 102 degrees as the game started, Lester looked cool and composed, working efficiently through the Ranger lineup. Their best chance came in the seventh when Nelson Cruz tripled with one out, but Lester worked himself out of the jam.
With a rally in the works, J.D. Drew drove in Ryan Kalish to open the scoring in the fifth inning, but Colby Lewis (9-9) escaped the inning only having given up one run. The Sox struck again in the ninth though, with Bill Hall and Marco Scutaro each driving in runs to give the Sox a 3-0 lead. It would be enough to outlast Josh Hamilton’s home run and any subsequent Texas threat.
Jon Lester shouldered the load Saturday, surrendering no runs and leaving the shaky bullpen only three outs of work. He hasn’t allowed any runs in his last two starts.
W: Jon Lester (13-7)
L: Colby Lewis (9-9)
S: Felix Doubront (1)