Just when Jon Lester had seemingly put an end to his struggles, he ran into an injury scare in the middle of a strong outing. Fortunately for both he and the Boston Red Sox, the ailment wasn't serious and won't keep him from the mound Wednesday night.
The left-hander hopes to sustain the improvement from his last start as he takes on the San Diego Padres at Fenway Park.
Lester (8-4, 4.61 ERA) started off 6-0 through his first nine outings, then fell into a seven-start slump that saw him go 1-4 with a 7.30 ERA, lasting more than six innings only twice.
He appeared to right himself Thursday against Toronto, yielding two runs and three hits in the first seven innings and retiring the first 10 batters he faced. But he gave up back-to-back singles to begin the eighth and then was caught in a 3-0 count in the next at-bat, prompting manager John Farrell to remove him from the game after Lester aggravated his hip.
The two-time All-Star has since been evaluated and appears to be good to go for Wednesday. One could understand Farrell's caution, considering the club has already been without Clay Buchholz since June 8.
"Based on all the maintenance work he (Lester) currently does, and the strength exams that he goes through, the range of motion is good," Farrell told the team's official website. "There's nothing that is glaring."
Home runs were an issue for Lester during his run of bad starts, as he yielded nine in 40 2-3 innings after allowing four through his first 59 2-3 innings. He held the Blue Jays homerless.
The Padres have batted .220 during a 2-8 stretch and will try to avoid matching a season-high five-game skid.
Boston (51-34) has just one homer during its 6-1 run, but has found a way to produce in other ways, such as Brandon Snyder 's bases-clearing double in the fourth inning of a 4-1 win over San Diego (40-44) in Tuesday's opener.
The Red Sox are averaging 5.9 runs and 11.7 hits over their last seven contests.
Jacoby Ellsbury was 2 for 4 Tuesday to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. He's 21 for 51 (.412) during the run and has also hit safely in all seven of his interleague contests this season, going 15 for 31 (.484) with five doubles.
Looking to slow down Boston's offense will be Edinson Volquez (6-6, 5.50). Volquez has had his share of struggles but is 2-1 with a 3.04 ERA over his last four outings, striking out 30 in 23 2-3 innings while allowing 21 hits. He struck out eight and gave up two runs over six innings in a 9-2 win at Miami on Friday.
"I felt great. Everything was working tonight," said Volquez, who walked one after matching a career high with seven in his previous start. "I just want to be aggressive in the strike zone, not walk too many hitters and stay in the game six or seven innings."
He left without a decision in his only start against Boston, giving up three runs - two earned - over seven innings for Cincinnati on June 14, 2008.
Wednesday marks Lester's first interleague start this season. He's 11-5 with a 3.13 ERA in 21 career starts versus NL teams.
|San Diego Padres|
|June 22, 2013||Clayton Richard||15-Day DL||Left shoulder strain|
|June 17, 2013||Everth Cabrera||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|June 15, 2013||Carlos Quentin||Day-to-Day||Sore left shoulder|
|June 11, 2013||Cameron Maybin||Day-to-Day||Sore knee|
|June 10, 2013||Cameron Maybin||15-Day DL||Strained left knee|
|June 10, 2013||Jedd Gyorko||15-Day DL||Strained right groin|
|Boston Red Sox|
|June 28, 2013||Stephen Drew||Day-to-Day||Left game - right hamstring tightness|
|June 23, 2013||Shane Victorino||Day-to-Day||Left game - back|
|June 23, 2013||Franklin Morales||15-Day DL||Strained left pectoral|
|June 22, 2013||Franklin Morales||Day-to-Day||Back|
|June 15, 2013||David Ross||60-Day DL||Concussion|
|June 11, 2013||Clayton Mortensen||15-Day DL||Right hip impingement|
BOSTON (AP) -- Jonny Gomes knew he'd have another chance at the same pitch after looking bad on a pair of sliders. He didn't miss the next time.
Gomes hit a pinch-hit homer leading off the ninth inning to lift the Boston Red Sox to a 2-1 win over the suddenly offensively challenged San Diego Padres on Wednesday night.
Gomes lined a 2-2 pitch off Luke Gregerson (4-4) into the first row of seats above the Green Monster for his second game-ending homer of the season.
"That guy throws good sliders like he did the inning before and he did to me," said Gomes, who swung and missed badly on two that sailed away. "The first three pitches no one was going to hit them. I let one go and then kind of set my sights on getting one up, and got good wood on it."
Gomes rounded third after his game-ending shot, took his helmet off, held it like a fullback going into the line of scrimmage and was mobbed by his teammates at home plate.
"The clubhouse stuff has been talked about more than his play on the field, but he's been great for us," Boston starting pitcher Jon Lester said of the easygoing Gomes.
"I just had three swings tonight," Gomes said, standing in the middle of clubhouse wearing red, white and blue shorts. "Those guys did a lot of work. Whether it's me or someone else, winning's fun. It's contagious."
Mike Carp had two hits and scored a run for Boston, which is 7-1 on its nine-game homestand that concludes Thursday against the Padres.
"When we get into some of these National League teams, we don't have a lot of history against their guys coming out of the bullpen," Boston manager John Farrell said of the move. "In this case, Gomes had faced Gregerson twice and also hit a walkoff against him previous."
Carlos Quentin went 3 for 4 with a double and two singles for the Padres. San Diego has scored just five runs in its five-game losing streak.
"Little bit up in the strike zone. Threw a couple of good ones down that Gomes swung through," Padres manager Bud Black said of the game-winning homer. "I'm sure he tried to execute the same one that he did the previous two for strikes, just left it a little bit up. Gomes was probably looking for it. Gomes has some pull-side power, he can elevate the ball and that's what he did."
Koji Uehara (2-0) pitched one inning for the win.
The Red Sox squandered a good chance in the eighth. Dustin Pedroia led off with a double off the Monster against Nick Vincent . After David Ortiz was intentionally walked for the second time, Gregerson relieved and retired the next three batters, striking out Daniel Nava and Jarrod Saltalamacchia .
San Diego starter Edinson Volquez pitched six innings on his 30th birthday, giving up one run on seven hits, striking out six with one intentional walk.
"When we lose a game like that, there's nothing we can do," he said. "We battled the whole game. We lost in the ninth. Can't happen. We've got to come back tomorrow and win the next game."
Lester had a similar line over seven, allowing six hits, one run, walking one and striking out five. He entered just 2-4 with a 6.98 ERA in his last eight starts.
Lester labored in the first, throwing 32 pitches and giving up a run. Plate umpire Doug Eddings called time just as Lester was starting to throw a pitch to Chase Headley . It hit him on the foot, but was waved off. Headley then proceeded to have a 10-pitch at-bat, reaching on a single. Kyle Blanks followed with an RBI single to center.
Boston tied it 1-1 when Carp singled leading off the fourth and scored when left fielder Quentin misplayed a carom off the Green Monster on Saltalamacchia's double.
Lester settled down after the first, retiring the Padres in order on just five pitches in the second. He gave up a hit, but needed only 12 in the third.
Volquez struck out the side in the second after allowing Carp's leadoff single.
Both dugouts were warned by Eddings after Volquez hit Jose Iglesias with the first pitch in the third inning.
NOTES: Red Sox RHP Clay Buchholz , on the 15-day disabled list since June 9 with a neck strain, threw from flat ground at about 100 feet. Buchholz was 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA before the injury. ... The Padres made a lineup change about three hours before the game, moving Quentin from DH to left field and Blanks from left to DH. ... Farrell gave 1B Mike Napoli the day off and inserted Carp at first, batting him sixth. "Trying to get a few more left-handed bats in the lineup," Farrell said. ... Quentin was 0 for 11 against Lester. ... Boston SS Iglesias was named AL rookie of the month for June, the first Red Sox player to win it since Jacoby Ellsbury did it in September 2007. Iglesias hit .395 in 25 games. ... Game time temperature was 87 degrees with a steamy feeling in Fenway Park. ... The clubs conclude the three-game series Thursday afternoon with Boston rookie Allen Webster (0-2, 9.50 ERA) making his fifth major-league start against San Diego left-hander Eric Stults (6-6, 3.51 ERA).