A two-time All-Star and four-time 15-game winner, Jon Lester continues to look like anything but one of baseball's more dependable starters.
With Lester hoping to turn things around Sunday, the Boston Red Sox try to avoid getting swept at home by the Toronto Blue Jays for the first time in three seasons.
Lester, whose 65 victories from 2008-11 were tied for the fourth-most in the majors, hasn't been able to win games with any consistency this year. The left-hander has gone 5-7 with a 4.80 ERA over 19 starts, and frustration appears to be taking its toll.
"I don't think there's anything else I can work on. I've worked on everything," he said. "Just come game time, I've got to throw the ball better. Just plain and simple."
Lester has been especially bad in losing his last two starts, allowing a combined 11 runs while failing to make it through five innings in each. He gave up six runs, seven hits and three walks over four innings Tuesday in a 7-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
"It's frustrating showing up every day busting my (rear) and going out there busting my (rear) when I pitch and just not pitching well," Lester told the Red Sox's official website. "I'm letting my team down."
Lester is 11-5 with a 3.20 ERA over 20 career starts against the Blue Jays (47-47), allowing one run or none in 12 of those outings. Boston (48-47) surely could use a strong effort from Lester given its sudden inability to get much going at the plate.
After going 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position during Friday's series-opening 6-1 loss, the Red Sox went 1 for 6 in such situations Saturday in a 7-3 defeat, scoring all of their runs on Jarrod Saltalamacchia 's second-inning homer.
Boston now sits just one-half game ahead of last-place Toronto in the AL East.
"Especially in our division, teams keep coming after you and coming after you," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "We need to try to separate ourselves. There's nothing wrong with getting a five-, six-run lead. ... We need to make sure we have better at-bats and try to pull away."
After sitting out Friday with a bruised right calf, Toronto's Brett Lawrie had three RBIs Saturday. Edwin Encarnacion and J.P. Arencibia each homered, with Encarnacion matching a career high with his 26th of the season.
"Our guys came through, J.P. and Eddie, in a big way," winning pitcher Carlos Villanueva said.
The Blue Jays now turn to Henderson Alvarez (5-7, 4.29 ERA). The 22-year-old right-hander allowed two runs, five hits and a career-worst four walks over six innings Monday at Yankee Stadium in Toronto's 6-3 loss.
Alvarez, whose 3.34 strikeouts per nine innings are the second-lowest rate in the majors among qualified pitchers, matched a career best by striking out six Yankees.
"I thought he had a very good changeup, he had some late action to his sinker, as we've seen ... so an outstanding job on Henderson's part," manager John Farrell said.
Alvarez has gone 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA over four career starts against Boston. He allowed five runs - three earned - and six hits over five innings June 25, earning a 9-6 road victory in his only career appearance at Fenway Park.
The Blue Jays haven't pulled off a sweep there since Sept. 28-30, 2009.
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|July 17, 2012||Jason Frasor||15-Day DL||Right forearm tightness|
|July 17, 2012||Jose Bautista||15-Day DL||Left wrist inflammation|
|July 16, 2012||Jose Bautista||Day-to-Day||Left game - Left wrist injury|
|July 09, 2012||Luis Perez||Day-to-Day||Torn ligament in left elbow|
|July 09, 2012||Luis Perez||60-Day DL||Torn ligament in left elbow|
|July 07, 2012||Brett Lawrie||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back tightness|
|Boston Red Sox|
|July 21, 2012||Mike Aviles||Day-to-Day||Turf toe|
|July 17, 2012||David Ortiz||15-Day DL||Right Achilles strain|
|July 14, 2012||Scott Atchison||15-Day DL||Right forearm tightness|
|July 04, 2012||Dustin Pedroia||15-Day DL||Jammed right thumb|
|July 04, 2012||Dustin Pedroia||15-Day DL||Jammed right thumb|
|July 03, 2012||Daisuke Matsuzaka||15-Day DL||Neck injury|
BOSTON (AP) -- The Toronto Blue Jays more than made up for the loss of slugger Jose Bautista against the Boston Red Sox.
Brett Lawrie hit the game's first pitch for one of Toronto's four homers and the Blue Jays tagged Jon Lester for a career-worst 11 runs in a 15-7 victory that completed a three-game sweep over the Red Sox on Sunday.
J.P. Arencibia, Rajai Davis and Travis Snider also homered for the Blue Jays.
Coming into Boston last in the division and minus one of the game's best power hitters, the Blue Jays pounded the Red Sox by a combined score of 28-11 after being swept in three games by the Yankees.
"It was just a very good offensive day and a very good weekend, considering what we came out of in New York and the loss of Jose," Toronto manager John Farrell said. "The guys bounced back and we had a very good weekend here."
Bautista who leads the club with 27 homers, is on the 15-day disabled list with a sore left wrist.
Toronto (48-47) posted a season high for runs and climbed out of the AL East cellar, moving a half-game ahead of the Red Sox (48-48). The Blue Jays matched their season high with 18 hits.
"I think the boys set the tone. First pitch of the game, Brett comes out swinging," Snider said. "J.P. and the rest of the at-bats we put together against Lester were good at-bats against a good pitcher like Lester. We've struggled (against him) before and to come out of here with a sweep is nice."
Lester (5-8) allowed a career-high four homers and nine hits. He was booed off the field after being pulled with no outs in the fifth.
"God, I hope so," said Lester when asked if he needs to get better soon. "It's getting old."
The left-hander's teammates know they need him to rebound.
"We have to have him back. Everyone goes through hard times," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "We're not going to turn around if Jon's not himself. We have to have him. We're not going to run away from him and turn our backs on him."
Adrian Gonzalez hit a three-run homer and Jacoby Ellsbury a solo shot for the Red Sox, who play their next six games on the road against division leaders.
Boston opens a three-game series against AL West-leading Texas on Monday and has a three-game set versus the East-leading New York Yankees next weekend.
Henderson Alvarez (6-7) pitched 5 2-3 innings, giving up seven runs and seven hits.
Lawrie belted a 95 mph fastball completely out of Fenway Park over the Green Monster. Edwin Encarnacion and Davis sandwiched RBI doubles around Arencibia's run-scoring grounder, moving Toronto ahead 4-0. Jeff Mathis then laid down a safety squeeze, scoring Davis to make it 5-0.
Gonzalez hit a three-run homer in the bottom half, but the Blue Jays scored four more runs off Lester on consecutive homers by Arencibia and Davis in the second.
Lester sounded like someone that's feeling extra pressure lately.
"It's embarrassing," Lester said. "I've let my teammates down a lot this year. It's hard for me to walk around this clubhouse and look guys in the eye right now."
Arencibia hit a three-run shot into the Monster seats after Lawrie walked leading off and Encarnacion drew a two-out walk. Five pitches later, Davis homered into the first row of seats above the left-field wall. After Lester fanned Snider for the final out, he walked slowly to the dugout to loud boos.
"We just kept on putting (good at-bats) together and to be able to score nine runs on a guy like that is tough," Arencibia said.
Gonzalez homered about 10 rows into the bleachers behind Boston's bullpen.
Mike Aviles ' sacrifice fly made it 9-3 before Snider, the last batter Lester faced, hit a two-run shot onto a black tarp that covers two sections of center-field seats during day games to help the hitters' background. Lester's ERA ballooned to 5.46 from 4.80.
In the sixth, Boston made it 11-7 on back-to-back RBI hits by Aviles and Nick Punto . Toronto added four more runs in the eighth.
The Red Sox finished a seven-game homestand 3-4 after taking three of four from the Chicago White Sox.
NOTES: Farrell said before the game that RF Bautista is "coming along better than the medical staff could have envisioned." ... Boston 3B Will Middlebrooks and LF Carl Crawford were both rested. "He's been playing a lot since the hamstring," manager Bobby Valentine said of Middlebrooks, who missed seven games earlier this month with a tight left hamstring. "Day game after a night game might be testing it. I don't want to test it." Crawford had played in every game since coming off the DL for the first time Monday, following his recovery from left wrist and elbow injuries. ... It took nearly an hour to play the first two innings. ... The Blue Jays had the leadoff batter on in the first five innings - all against Lester.