July 16, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis (20) reacts after scoring a run during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-US PRESSWIRE

Ace or Replace? Lester Shelled, Youk and ChiSox Roll 7-5.

How many times can it be said before the patience of the Nation snaps. Jon Lester had a bad game. Lately that’s like saying the sun rose in the east. Lester’s line last night against the Chicago White Sox looked liked this:
4 innings pitched, 7 hits, 6 earned runs, 3 BB, 4 Ks and 1 HR. The pitiful coda to an ugly start for Lester was a stinging three-run homer in the fourth inning that left a mark by none other than, you guessed it, Kevin Youkilis.

For anyone who has followed my posts or for that matter the Red Sox this year, my apologies for yet another rewind. For those of you tuning in for the first time, can I reiterate, “My kingdom for a clean first inning!”

White Sox hitters took Lester deep into counts in the first inning at Fenway Park last night and made him pay. Lester gave up two runs in a 26 pitch first inning that was only salvaged by a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play to mercifully close the top half of the first frame. Lester labored through the first two innings, throwing 50 pitches and putting the bullpen decidedly in jeopardy.

The Fenway Faithful, who just 24 hours before had witnessed a glimpse of what Boston’s starting lineup woulda, shoulda, coulda been with both Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford back in action, were pleased to see Ellsbury smack a single, steal second base and score on a Crawford single. That’s what speed and getting healthy is all about.

Crawford kept the pressure on by swiping second on a slider to Daniel Nava. Nava grounded out to second to move Crawford to third base. With two out Adrian Gonzalez sizzled a single to plate Crawford and knot the score at 2-2.

The White Sox lead the AL Central for a reason. In the second they took the lead on an Alexei Ramirez single and an Alejandro De Aza double that plated Ramirez to make the score 3-2 Chicago.

Lester was inattentive and could not stay out of hot water in the third. He walked Adam Dunn and then essentially gave Captain Slew Foot a stolen base, Dunn’s first of the year. He got out of the inning but didn’t look pretty doing it as his pitch count rose to 67. Mike Aviles smothered a sure-thing base hit that would have scored Dunn. Aviles went flat out on a scorcher up the middle by A.J. Pierzynski and ended the inning with a gun ‘em out throw to Adrian Gonazalez to keep the ChiSox in check.

After Boston failed to produce in the bottom of the third, Lester gave up a double to Dayan Viceodo, a walk to Gordon Beckham and a three-run back-breaker bomb to Youk in what would prove to be his last inning. When the dust settled, Chicago held a 6-2 lead and Lester left after yet another awful 91-pitch, four-inning effort.

The Sox rallied in the eighth on a Crawford single, a Middlebrooks single to score Crawford and a Kelly Shoppach pinch-hit two-run bomb to make it 7-5. In the end, however, Lester’s shortened six-run abomination simply proved to be a hole too deep.

1. What’s up with Jarrod Saltalamacchia? I’ll tell you what’s up. For the first time in years Salty has to the deliver the mail almost every day. Kelly Shoppach is serviceable but Salty is wearing down under the rigors of Varitek-like stress. He’s swinging at bad pitches and is getting into a prolonged funk. Last night he was 0-3 with a strike out and two-runners left on base.
2. David Ortiz and the Red Sox have been extremely quiet about his bum achilles heel, aggravated while rounding second base after Adrian Gonazalez’ homer Tuesday night. It’s the kind of quiet that makes a Sox fan all too familiar with Boston’s disabled list more than a little concerned.

1. If there was a plus side for Boston, it was Carl Crawford. Frankly, he went wild. He singled to plate Ellsbury in the first, scored a run, beat out an infield hit (the kind that used to absolutely incense Sox fans when he played for the Rays) and easily swiped two bases in a futile attempt to keep Boston’s offense chugging along. In the eighth he triggered a Red Sox rally by again using his speed on a slow bouncer to Youk that produced another single. And oh yeah, he stole his third base of the night, the first time a Red Sox player has done it since 1928. Crawford eventually scored on a Will Middlebrooks single. That’s being seriously in the mix.
2. Jacoby Ellsbury wasn’t far behind Crawford in the plus category. Ells went 2-5, stole a base and scored a run last night, building on his solid return to Fenway the night before.

Tags: Adrian Gonzalez Carl Crawford Daniel Nava David Ortiz Favorite Jacoby Ellsbury Jarrod Saltalamacchia Jon Lester Kelly Shoppach Kevin Youkilis Mike Aviles Will Middlebrooks

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