Lack of support sends Lester to another tough loss
Red Sox ace allows two earned runs, but offense blanked by Brewers
BOSTON -- Most games, what Jon Lester did Sunday is good enough to get the win -- 7 1/3 innings, four runs (two earned) on seven hits and a walk to go with six strikeouts against the Brewers. Most games, though, Yovani Gallardo isn't the opposing pitcher.
The Milwaukee ace shut out the Red Sox lineup for 6 2/3 innings en route to a 4-0 win at Fenway Park. He scattered seven hits and walked none to outduel Lester and lift the visitors to the three-game weekend sweep.
The sweep of Boston was Milwaukee's first since October of 1993, also at Fenway. It was also the first time the Red Sox were swept in a three-game series at home since September 2012.
"We've had a difficult time bunching hits together," manager John Farrell said. "Seemingly in a number of hitters counts we got into, Gallardo made a good pitch with a sinker, put the ball on the ground.
"We're doing our damnedest, I know that, to try to build an inning, to try to hit to the situation. At some point, you credit the quality of pitches made in key spots by the opposing pitcher."
The game could be best remembered from the Sox's perspective as the first time they challenged a call. When Jackie Bradley Jr. was called out at first after a sharp grounder initially bobbled by Milwaukee second baseman Rickie Weeks in the second inning, Farrell requested the umpires look at the replay.
The umpires ruled that the call would stand after a review of one minute, 38 seconds.
By then, the Brewers already led, 2-0, after a series of Boston defensive miscues in the top half of the inning. With Jonathan Lucroy on second and nobody out, Khris Davis laid down a bunt that neither Lester nor Jonathan Herrera fielded. Lester initially charged but backed off, and Herrera -- playing third base in the absence of Will Middlebrooks -- never made much of an effort.
Both runners scored the next at-bat when Mark Reynolds' sinking liner skipped by Daniel Nava in right field for a single and an error.
"I knew that if I could catch this ball, I had a chance with momentum coming forward to hopefully throw this guy out," Nava said. "But as I was coming in, I realized I didn't have a play on the ball, so I tried to slow up and as I did that, it skipped on by me."
After that, however, Lester settled down. He retired 16 straight into the seventh. Jeff Bianchi singled to plate Davis three batters after Davis doubled to snap Milwaukee's offensive skid.
Lester's fourth run came after Edward Mujica came on in relief in the eighth and allowed Ryan Braun (single) to score.
"He was just cruising. He knew how well he was pitching," David Ross said. "I don't know if he tired out at the end, but his balls weren't as sharp as they could be. One ball found a hole, a little cutter to give up that third run. That was a big one."
Added Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke: "[Lester's] cutter is outstanding, his curveball, you saw how many guys swung at it in the dirt. You don't pick it up."
Through two starts, Lester has allowed four earned runs in 14 1/3 innings (2.51 ERA) while striking out 14 and walking two. He has received one run of support.
Herrera, who played third base for the 45th time in the Majors, made every play aside from the second-inning bunt. The biggest test came in the seventh when he barehanded a Carlos Gomez bunt and threw to first to beat the speedy center fielder and help Lester avoid further trouble.
Nava's 1-for-4 effort makes him 3-for-26 (.115) a week into the season. His first two at-bats Sunday, which resulted in him being robbed by Reynolds at third and Gallardo on the mound, respectively, are representative of the malady inflicting the team as a whole.
The Sox are hitting .254 with a .315 on-base percentage through six games but seemingly can't, in Farrell's words, "bunch some hits together." Boston was 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position and left 17 runners on base this weekend.
"We hit the ball hard all of these games since Opening Day. It's just not falling," Xander Bogaerts said. "It'll fall soon."