A SAD END TO A
Lester strikes out
(10) the Nats
June 21, 2006 ...
Jon Lester found a way to celebrate the 92-mile-per-hour fastball
that exploded past Matthew LeCroy on its way to a not-so-cushy
landing in Jason Varitek's glove. And with that, with all the
strikeouts and all the offense (16 hits) and all the superlatives
that seem to attend a Red Sox- National League matchup, Lester
finished off back-to-back sweeps of the dregs of the NL East for his
second career (and second straight) win, a 9-3 drubbing of the
Washington Nationals before 36,464 at Fenway.
The win made
it six straight against NL competition in a six-day stretch that has seen some
of the best from the offense all season. The Red Sox are hitting, and it isn't
just David Ortiz whose second-inning grand slam took significant pressure off
Lester and Manny Ramirez who added another hit and RBI to his totals it's others
such as Alex Gonzalez (2 for 4, two runs) and Trot Nixon (3 for 5, two runs, two
outing, though it featured the most strikeouts of the season for a Sox pitcher,
as well as just one run allowed on three hits, was not all that out of the
ordinary. One of the Sox most-prized possessions continued to slow the hint of
panic that was creeping into any discussion about the Sox' pitching.
that confidence, that slowing down, came from a pitch in the second inning. One
from Nationals starter Shawn Hill. Having already gotten out of a two-out,
bases-loaded jam in the first by inducing Varitek to ground out, Hill faced
Ortiz in the second with Gonzalez on third (single to center), Kevin Youkilis on
second (single to left), and Mark Loretta on first (single to left). The Sox'
designated hitter got a thigh-high fastball and drove it onto the roof of the
camera well in center field for his fifth career grand slam (all of which have
come at Fenway Park), providing Lester with everything he would need.
unfortunately for Nationals manager Frank Robinson's blood pressure, it wouldn't
be the final runs for a lineup that got at least one hit from each starter
except Mike Lowell. With the second straight blowout and remember, this series
came on the heels of the Nationals rallying on consecutive days to beat the
Yankees frustration poured from the opposing dugout.
struck for its only run off Boston's starter in the third inning, when Damian
Jackson (leadoff double) scored when Alfonso Soriano blooped a single just
beyond the glove of Youkilis at first. That was it. No other National got beyond
second base until Lester had been lifted after six innings and 107 pitches,
giving way to Rudy Seanez (one run), Manny Delcarmen, and Julian Tavarez (one
run). And, though Lester appeared to be tiring toward the end of outing, losing
a bit of location and velocity, both Lester and Varitek disputed the notion.
fine, too, both against Atlanta and Washington. Good enough that it seems he
won't be leaving the rotation any time soon. Good enough that the sting of
injuries seems to lessen each time he takes the mound. Now, he just needs to do
it against the American League.