Lester looked great yesterday with seven innings of four-hit shutout ball. Lester also registered eight strikeouts, giving him 204 strikeouts so far in 2009 and making him just the 10th Boston pitcher to ever break 200 strikeouts in a single season. He is also undefeated in his last nine outings, going 4-0 in that time. Lester has been the most consistent pitcher on Boston's starting staff this year, hands down.
The only run scored came in the eighth when Billy Wagner gave up a solo shot five pitches in to the first batter he faced. But that was it, Wagner got the next two batters out and then Bard stepped in to get Konerko to end the inning. Papelbon came on in a non-save situation to finish off Chicago in the ninth. All in all, it was a solid outing for the bullpen.
More importantly, the Boston offense finally decided to show up. 24 hours after getting embarrassed by a pitcher who was barely above .500 for the season, the Red Sox offense got it going. Going into the fourth with a scoreless tie, Bay led off the inning with a single and one batter later Lowell dumped a pitch over the left-field wall to make it 2-0. That was all the scoring Boston would actually need, but they tacked on another four, including a three-run shot in the top of the ninth from V-Mart to make it 6-1.
Martinez has been tearing it up as of late. He is riding a nine-game hitting streak stretching back to August 28. For the six games in September, Martinez is hitting .412 with a .994 OPS. His presence in the lineup has made Boston much more dangerous.
What also makes Boston more dangerous is Jason Bay's return to form. After that God-awful July and beginning of August, Bay has returned to form. He finished August on a tear and has continued that streak into September. Between August 9th and today, Bay has raised his OPS 51 points (.873-.924). And now he stands just two RBI from hitting the 100 mark.
And Ellsbury continues to produce from the leadoff spot. He went 3-4 with two runs scored and another stolen base, his 59th of the year. Ellsbury has really come into his own as the leadoff batter this year after a rough start.
After yesterday the Sox gained a game on the Yankees (now 7.5 back) and put another game between themselves and the Rangers (now 3 games up in the wild-card). Today the Sox go for the split and send Josh Beckett to the mound. In his last outing Beckett got hammered early but then seemed to find what he was missing. From the fourth through the sixth inning of that game, Beckett allowed just one baserunner. So he isn't hurt. Beckett just has to discover what changed between the third and fourth inning in his makeup and/or delivery. I know...easier said that done. But I hope he can do it because Chicago is putting Buehrle on the mound. He hit a bit of a rough patch after his perfect game, but over the past two games he allowed just two earned runs in each match. So the Sox are going to have to continue the kind of hitting they showed yesterday. And Beckett will hopefully show us the form we know he has.