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Lester's rough first half ends with loss to A's

Lefty yields three runs over 6 1/3 frames, but Sox's offense struggles

OAKLAND -- Jon Lester is a pitcher concerned with the bottom line.

The Red Sox won? It was a good outing. They lost? He wasn't good enough.

Full Game Coverage

OAKLAND -- Jon Lester is a pitcher concerned with the bottom line.

The Red Sox won? It was a good outing. They lost? He wasn't good enough.

Full Game Coverage

With that rationale in mind, Lester was inadequate in the Sox's 3-0 loss to the A's on Saturday. No matter that he pitched a respectable 6 1/3 innings and struck out four. He allowed three runs, and the offense didn't score any.

"A loss is a loss," Lester said. "It doesn't matter how well you've pitched when you lose. You got to take the positives out of the game and move forward. That's all I can really do."

This was no shellacking by the hands of the A's, who have won 10 of their last 13 games against the Red Sox. Lester was effective with his changeup and threw his cutter for strikes early in the count. His mishaps were minor, primarily on an 0-2 fastball that A's catcher Derek Norris belted over the Coliseum's out-of-town scoreboard in left field.

Not even pitching Norris into an 0-2 hole in the first place -- the second time in as many starts he's surrendered a home run on an 0-2 count and the third time this season -- was of concern for Lester.

"It doesn't matter what the count is," he said. "It's a homer."

Lester's mindset, of course, is flipped with the run support Boston is accustomed to seeing. Oakland's A.J. Griffin stymied a Red Sox offense that entered Saturday's contest having scored 34 runs over its last four games and owning a Major League-best .352 on-base percentage.

The Sox got baserunners, putting at least one man on in each of the first six innings, but they couldn't capitalize and finished the game 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

"When you don't score any runs it's tough to win," said a frustrated Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who hit a couple of deep balls to left field with nothing to show for it. "As hitters, we got ourselves out. We got a lot of good pitches to hit and we just didn't do it."

Red Sox manager John Farrell credited Griffin's ability to allow just one walk and spread hitters out by separating his fastball and curveball. Saltalamacchia and Co. belted a few toward the warning track, but never far enough to do damage with the cool Bay Area air circulating throughout the park.

"Days like this, you just try to keep them off the board as long as you can and minimize things," said Griffin, who allowed nine runs on eight hits over four-plus frames against the Red Sox on April 22 at Fenway. "Luckily for me, I got to make the good pitches at the right times and get out of some jams, and that's big, especially after my showing against them last time at Fenway. That didn't go very well. So I wanted to go out there and pitch my game."

As for Lester, Saturday was an improvement on his last outing against the Mariners, who touched him for five runs off nine hits in five innings of work.

"I don't think I'm a different pitcher," Lester said when asked to compare this start with the rest of the season. "I'm the same pitcher, different results. The stuff's the same, the mindset's the same.

"All you can really do is try to keep them close and hopefully we get a couple games on and he makes some mistakes where we tie the ballgame or are down one. In those situations, it's out of your control."

Oakland scored its second and third runs off base hits from Yoenis Cespedes and former Red Sox center fielder Coco Crisp in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively.

Boston's best chance to score came in the sixth inning with David Ortiz on third base with two outs after reaching base on a fielding error by rookie second baseman Grant Green. Saltalamacchia flied out to left field to end the threat.

"The way they pitched against us, the three-run difference loomed large," Farrell said. "On a night where we score our typical amount of runs, we're probably having a completely different conversation with the way Lester pitched."

Jeff Kirshman is an associate reporter for


Boston Red Sox, Jon Lester