The Red Sox secured their third straight win Friday, 4-3 over the Angels. Credit, though, is difficult to dole out, as this seemed like a game that neither team was particularly interested in winning.
One man who certainly deserves some credit is Jon Lester. Making his penultimate start in April, Lester was hoping to escape the month that has so plagued him in the past relatively unscathed. He came out of the gates looking like a man on a mission, striking out the side in the first on just thirteen pitches, and then added a fourth straight to start the second.
While Lester did not keep quite such a torrid pace--he would allow a single and a walk before escaping the second inning on a double play--he was none-the-less keeping the Angels off the board. Despite going to three-ball counts in a large number of his at-bats, Lester held Los Angeles to just four hits and two walks in six scoreless innings, striking out eight men along the way. Through five starts, the ace's ERA stands at 2.59.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, provided him with a reasonable four run cushion off of Dan Haren, if not in the most impressive of manners. Their first run, coming in the third, was legitimate, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia hitting a double off the wall in right field before Jacoby Ellsbury shot a two-bagger of his own down the line for the RBI. The two runs they scored in the fourth, however, were rather less impressive.
With two men in scoring position and two outs, Carl Crawford lifted a pop fly to center-right. With three Angels converging on it, center fielder Peter Bourjos appeared to slow down and then come up just short of the ball, letting it bounce at his feet. Both runners scored, and the Red Sox took a 3-0 lead. A leadoff triple by Jed Lowrie (later ruled a double with a fielding error) gave Boston what would turn out to be a crucial fourth run.
The troubles for the Red Sox came with their depleted and tired bullpen. Matt Albers, returning from injury, allowed a run in the seventh inning on a pair of two-out singles, neither of them hit very hard. Noticeably, Jarrod Saltalamacchia's continued inability to catch base stealers allowed Erick Aybar to reach second base and eventually score.
Then in the eighth, things really seemed to fall apart. Bobby Jenks came in to pitch the third straight game, and was visibly struggling, allowing a double and a single to quickly give the Angels a run before recording an out. Then, against two straight batters, Jarrod Saltalamacchia suffered a complete breakdown behind the plate. First he allowed Bobby Abreu to reach second on a wild pitch that reasonably should've been blocked. Then came the real nightmare: Bobby Jenks delivered a low pitch to Alberto Callaspo which Saltalamacchia seemed to have centered. However, with his glove well off the ground, the ball bounced in between his legs and to the backstop. Saltalamacchia came out of the crouch, and looked left and right completely bewildered. Abreu ran to third and then, with Salty nowhere near the ball, raced home to score from second on a passed ball.
Thankfully, Jenks managed to close out the inning, and with the game so close, Terry Francona elected to turn to his closer for the third straight game. Hank Conger lined a fastball on the outside edge up the middle to give the Angels a one-out baserunner, but an easy fly ball out to J.D. Drew and a three pitch strikeout of Howie Kendrick sealed the deal on Boston's third straight win.