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Jon Lester has been one of the most consistent pitchers for the Red Sox the past few seasons. The past two years have brought Opening Day honors to the lefty. While the team was off to a slow start, Lester turned in two solid outings, each good enough to deserve the win under normal circumstances.
That Jon Lester did not take the mound Tuesday against the Rangers. The Lester who did show up had trouble locating his pitches and finding the strike zone. By the third inning, Lester would give way to the bullpen and the damage would really start to accumulate as the Rangers scored 18 runs, including six home runs on the way to their fifth straight win.
The Rangers, one of the strongest offensive clubs in the American League, went to work early with leadoff man Ian Kinsler getting a hit to start the game. Lester would limit first inning damage to hits and watch Dustin Pedroia’s laser show in the bottom of the inning put his team up 2-0 over Colby Lewis. That would be about it for good news.
The Rangers scored 4 runs in the second inning and 3 more in the third, chasing Lester from the game. Scott Atchison allowed two baserunners of Lester’s to score and one of his own in the third inning, but went on to pitch three more clean frames and, along with Matt Albers, keeping the score at a reasonably close 8-2 through the seventh inning.
Mark Melancon changed all of that. In an effort that makes Alfredo Aceves’ first two appearances look downright brilliant, Melancon faced six batters in the eighth inning and failed to record an out. What he did do was allow towering home runs to Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, and Nelson Cruz as part of an 8-run eighth for Texas. ESPN reports that “Melancon is just the 8th pitcher in last 90 years to allow 3 HR without recording an out.” Not quite the history the Red Sox wanted to celebrate at Fenway Park this week.
Adrian Gonzalez would chip in with a home run of his own in the bottom of the inning but that was the only sign of the Red Sox bats since Dustin Pedroia’s blast many innings earlier. To add final insult to injury, Mike Napoli added a two-run shot in the ninth off Vincente Padilla, who filled the role usually occupied by a position player in these types of blowouts.
Laser show. La luna. It doesn’t matter. The second baseman hits the ball, catches it, and defends Kevin Youkilis in a single bound.
Lester didn’t have his best stuff and against a powerful Rangers lineup, it came back to bite him. Hard.
W: Colby Lewis (2-0)
L: Jon Lester (0-2)