It took one batter for Jon Lester to compose himself tonight. The Red
Sox spent the rest of the night trying to find a way to reward him
for his bravura effort, including a three-strikeout inning by Eric
Gagne, the reliever who was greeted by boos but left to cheers. Down
to their last two outs, they found the way. Mike Lowell homered over
the Monster to tie the score, Jason Varitek lined a two-out
ground-rule double into the right-field grandstand, and Coco Crisp
lined a single to right to bring home Varitek for a 2-1 win over the
Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Fenway Park.
recipient of a sustained ovation from a sellout crowd of 36,837 primed to
celebrate his first outing at Fenway since he was diagnosed with cancer last
August, fell behind the Tampa Bay leadoff man, Akinori Iwamura, three balls and
no strikes, then walked him on a full count. That would be the only walk
surrendered by the 23-year-old lefthander, who allowed the Devil Rays just two
hits and retired the side in order in six of the seven innings he pitched. He
allowed just one run, when Carl Crawford doubled, B.J. Upton blooped a single
off Dustin Pedroia's glove, and Carlos Pena hit a sacrifice fly.
Lester sat and watched after being removed following the seventh, his night was
in danger of being spoiled by Scott Kazmir, another lefthander who is the same
age as Lester but already has achieved the kind of status to which Lester
aspires. The Sox had their chances against Kazmir, who went six scoreless
innings, but they continued an aggravating pattern of short-circuiting their
scoring chances. Kazmir gave up a one-out double in the first to Pedroia, who
took third when David Ortiz flied to the track in center. Manny Ramirez walked,
but Lowell went down swinging, Devil Rays catcher Josh Paul throwing him out at
first after the third strike rolled away. Ortiz drew a two-out walk in the third
and hustled to third on Ramirez's single, but when Ramirez tried to take second
after the throw went to third, he was easily thrown out.
stirred expectantly when Tampa Bay reliever Gary Glover walked Varitek to open
the seventh, but Crisp failed to execute a sacrifice, Varitek erased at second
on the force play. And the mood turned ugly when J.D. Drew, pinch hitting for
Wily Mo Pena, grounded into a double play.
lifted by Francona after throwing 97 pitches. He retired the last 12 batters he
faced and could not have been more efficient than he was in the sixth and
seventh innings, when he set down the Devil Rays on eight and six pitches. The
Devil Rays threatened against the Sox bullpen in the eighth, when Manny
Delcarmen loaded the bases on Jonny Gomes's single, a walk to Josh Wilson, a
sacrifice bunt, and a two-out intentional walk to Crawford. That's when Mike
Timlin entered and struck out Upton.
the ninth, struck out Pena looking on a changeup, then blew away Delmon Young
with a 93-mile-an-hour fastball. Brendan Harris doubled over Drew's head in
right, but Gagne whiffed Gomes to keep the game close as the Sox came up for
their final at-bat.
seven-inning outing was his longest since he went eight innings on July 18,
2006, in a game in which he and Jonathan Papelbon combined on a one-hit shutout.
Kevin Youkilis's batting average slipped under .300 for the first time since May
6, when he was batting .287. On May 29, Youkilis reached his season high of
.358; he started last night at .300. He went 1 for 4 with three strikeouts to
drop to .299
went hitless in three at-bats last night for Pawtucket, but Jacoby Ellsbury
singled and had an RBI, making it 11 straight games in which he has hit safely
since his return from a groin injury. Sox reliever Brendan Donnelly underwent
reconstructive elbow ligament surgery in California yesterday. Angels
orthopedist Lewis Yocum performed the surgery. Matt Clement is working out in
Fort Myers, Fla., throwing off a mound.