The Boston Red Sox defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 7-4 on Thursday to maintain their 3.5 game lead in the American League East division. They did so by fitting an entire game’s worth of offense into the second inning while starting pitcher Jon Lester provided the necessary pitching support. It was a good victory for the team, but not necessarily a very impressive one.
In the second inning alone, the Red Sox hitters combined to score all seven of the runs off of two walks and seven hits with six of those hits coming with runners in scoring position. It was a good thing they squeezed all their production in that one inning because other than their output in the second inning, the Red Sox hitters were almost alarmingly inept.
With the second inning offensive explosion accounting for 75 percent of the base runners they had in the contest, the Red Sox hitters were really able to do nothing outside of that solitary inning. Five of the other seven innings during which the Red Sox hitters had plate appearances saw them go down in order.
Still, when a club scores seven runs in one inning, it can be forgiven for not spacing out their runs in a more consistent manner. The second inning did see the team go from a win expectancy of 59.0 percent to one of 95.3 percent as it was all the Red Sox really needed to eventually win.
The pitching of Jon Lester was not nearly as noteworthy as the second-inning hitting of his teammates, but it was still effective enough. Lester pitched 7.0 innings, in addition to facing three batters in the eighth inning before having to leave the game with a hip injury, and saw four earned runs charged to his account.
Once again, as he has for seven of his past eight starts, he was responsible for at least four earned runs crossing the plate, but at least this time, he was able to pitch deep into the contest. Lester fell victim to a distinct inability to strand the base runners he conceded, allowing 50.0 percent of those base runners to score. His failure to strand base runners, along with his three walks undermined the fact he struck out five of the 27 batters he faced, or 18.5 percent.
Lester’s 2.90 fielding-independent ERA and 3.91 expected fielding-independent ERA for the game, by virtue of being lower than his game 5.14 ERA, give indication that he was more a victim of circumstances than mediocre pitching, but his continued inability to prevent runs is still an issue.
He also left the game with the bases loaded, forcing relief pitcher Junichi Tazawa to get three outs before allowing the Blue Jays to do any significant damage to the Red Sox lead. Tazawa did permit two of the base runners Lester allowed to score, but he was able to get out of the bases loaded situation with the Red Sox lead still intact.
Relief pitcher Koji Uehara then went on to pitch a perfect ninth and secure the victory for the Red Sox.
With their latest victory, the Red Sox are inching closer and closer to being an absolute lock for the playoffs. They currently possess an 86.3 percent chance of making the postseason and might have to make it there by winning in spite of Lester’s uninspired pitching.