Jon Lester was moving through the Tiger’s lineup with few bumps until the fourth inning. He had only given up one hit and two walks through the first three frames. He was getting ahead of batters early, and attacking the strike zone with his two seam fastball that set up a very effective cut fastball and curveball. His fastball was consistently at 93 MPH, even as he approached 100 pitches. He got in trouble when he tried to assert the fastball too often before going to his off-speed stuff. His cutter is probably his best pitch, but he tried to aim pitches to Jose Guillen and Miguel Cabrera but walked both in the fourth, and likewise with Marcus Thames, who connected on an inside fastball for a two run home run. Lester didn’t pitch that poorly; he just needs to mix up his pitches more on the second time around the lineup otherwise hitters will pick up on his stuff.
Mike Lowell left the game after making a diving stop on a ground ball in the first inning. Lowell landed awkwardly and jammed his glove hand into the ground before firing the ball to first to put out Ivan Rodriguez. He had x-Rays taken and they were negative. Because Sean Casey has done such a nice job filling in at the plate so far this season, collecting two hits today, the Sox will not rush Lowell back. He had injury problems with his hand in the past, and the injury is on his left hand, which applies most of the pressure with his swing. Look for Kevin Youkilis and Alex Cora to get some playing time at third until Lowell gets back, probably around this weekend.
It does seem like it is a reoccurring topic on this recap, but it is the last roster spot not yet determined. Both Bryan Corey and Javier Lopez did nothing to enhance their résumés to stay with the team, while David Aardsma looked sharper than he has in recent performances. Mike Timlin has pitched very successfully in Pawtucket and he is ready to come back, so the decision will be made soon. The Sox are convinced that they need another left hander in the bullpen because Hideki Okajima has a determined role as the set-up guy and can not be used for situational spots. The balance seems slightly in Corey’s favor, but the series with the Yankees’ will likely decide the spot.
Jacoby Ellsbury was on base twice tonight with two walks, one coming with the bases loaded to drive in a run. He has started off slow, and is batting under .200, but it is clear that the Sox have no intention of sitting him down for longer than one game at a time, and that he will continue to be the Sox starting center fielder. They will continue to shop Coco Crisp, who is very unhappy to be platooning with Ellsbury right now, and until they can get a deal with him, it will likely be that Ellsbury will play about 60 percent of the games, and never start against left handed pitchers. He does not have his timing down at the plate, and is trying too hard to provide the offensive spark he did for the club last year. It may take him until the end of April to get his swing together, but it will be worth the wait.
Look for this recap tomorrow as the Sox take on the Tigers in the rubber game of this series. (To view previous recaps, follow this link).
Keep the Faith