AP Photo/Mary Schwalm
Well, it's more than a year later and at least Lester remembers what it was like to be that good. The Red Sox pitcher retired the first 18 batters he faced, and was perfect through six innings against the Texas Rangers. In fact, he was so good, he had thrown only 62 pitches while striking out 10 hitters. Could another no-hitter be in the cards?
Sadly, no. But David Ortiz finally decided to hit his second home run of the season in the bottom of the sixth. Was it a mammoth blast? Hardly. The liner, which barely managed to hook around the "Pesky Pole," wouldn't have gone out of any other ballpark in the majors. And yet, Red Sox fans were so desperate to cheer for Big Papi that they hooted and hollered as if the ball had traveled 500 feet. Ortiz was eventually shoved out of the dugout by his teammates to reluctantly take the curtain call.
The Red Sox were lifted by the emotion of the moment, and went on to score four runs in the inning while Lester sat and sat and sat
When he finally came out for the seventh inning, the long delay had done its damage. Lester retired Ian Kinsler on a line drive, and then Michael Young doubled into the gap. Perfection denied. No-hitter gone.
"I lost a little bit of interest at that point," Lester told the Boston Globe. Who could blame him? Still, Lester finished up the game allowing only one run on two hits (both to Young), and struck out 11 Rangers, moving him to third in the American League with 85, only 12 behind Justin Verlander. Lester has won three of his past four to climb to 5-5 on the season, and appears to be ready to become a dominant fantasy force from this point forward.
On the other side of the coin is Ortiz. His five-game hitting streak has raised his average to a whopping .196, and it's only in the past couple of games that his slugging percentage has actually passed his OBP. Sorry, Papi. In the words of Isaac Mizrahi, "We're not buying it, and you're hanging by a thread."
• Josh Fields, for one, is tired of hearing about Gordon Beckham. Given the start at third base after the rookie went 0-for-6 in his first two starts, Fields went 2-for-4 with a home run for the White Sox. Manager Ozzie Guillen thought Fields needed a little motivation, telling the team's official website, "I think maybe having Beckham here pushes him a little bit more." Of course, that doesn't explain why Fields raised his average from .212 to .244 before the team called him up, but whatever, Ozzie. Revise away.
• In news that comes as no surprise to any Chipper Jones owner; the Braves third baseman left another game with an injury. This time though, it is a bit more mysterious than usual, as "dizziness" was the reason he was replaced for Diory Hernandez in the fifth inning of Saturday's game. Jones told reporters after the game that he expects to play Sunday but for how long?
• Colorado scored 10 runs against the Cardinals on Saturday, but Carlos Gonzalez did nothing, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his 2009 debut. It was infielder Ian Stewart who did most of the damage, going 3-for-4 with two home runs and five RBIs, and made third baseman Garrett Atkins seem more and more expendable every day.
• Captain Hunter Pence strikes again! With a home run and a triple off of Paul Maholm, Pence raised his batting average to .347, and his OBP to .422 for the season. Still, Roy Oswalt had a disastrous day, allowing six runs on nine hits in six innings, and Houston lost to Pittsburgh, 6-4.
• The closer carousel in the NL East continues to turn. According to The Washington Post, Joel Hanrahan was told by manager Manny Acta his ninth-inning services will no longer be required, and Mike MacDougal is now the Nationals' choice. In Florida, for some reason, they're a little more patient with Matt Lindstrom. In spite of a 6.17 ERA and shaky Saturday outing where he walked the bases loaded and was pulled for Leo Nunez, who eventually got the save, Lindstrom is still the closer, but the clock is clearly ticking. The Miami Herald reports that when asked about Lindstrom, manager Fredi Gonzalez looked at the time and said, "As of 11:08, we'll give the (next) opportunity to Matty."
• Another dreadful outing by Brad Lidge, who blew his sixth save of the season against the Dodgers on Saturday, has even Santa Claus booing the closer, who was perfect in 2008. Charlie Manuel has no plans of making a change. "If you rest him or do something else with him, put him somewhere else, I think that could hurt his confidence," Manuel told the Philadelphia Inquirer. Of course if you don't, you could end up out of the playoffs come September. Just saying.
• His name may be down there on the alphabetical list, but Ben Zobrist is near the top of fantasy wish-lists. Zobrist, who played his 10th game at both second base and shortstop on Saturday to gain that elusive positional eligibility at both spots, was 2-for-3 with his 11th home run and a triple. He also scored two runs in a win over the Yankees. David Price allowed three runs over 5 2/3 innings for the Rays, but only one run was earned. Still, he walked five batters, and only 53 of his 107 pitches were strikes. He's going to be on a pitch count all season, but we're concerned that he's still going through those pitches so quickly, even if the ERA (2.45) is good.
Andre Ethier, Dodgers
True, Prince Fielder also hit two solo home runs on Saturday, but we expect that kind of performance from him. Ethier, on the other hand, failed to drive in a single run against the Phillies in last season's NLCS, so it's a bit surprising to see him with the game-winning hit against Philadelphia for the second straight day. His second home run on Saturday was of the walk-off variety, a two-out blast of Chad Durbin in the 12th inning.
John Lannan, Nationals
Helped by a defense that turned five double plays, Lannan made very quick work of the Mets, needing only 96 pitches to finish out the first complete game of his career, a 7-1 victory. Lannan had entered the game with a 2.25 ERA at home, and lowered it to 1.76 with the four-hitter that took only two hours to finish.
When Edwin Jackson finished his complete-game victory over the Angels with a three-up, three-down, three-strikeout ninth inning, he became only the second pitcher to accomplish the feat since Curt Schilling did it for the Phillies way back in 1998. CC Sabathia ended a game by striking out three Reds while with the Brewers last July.
• Maybe this time, he'll stick around. Luke Hochevar was recalled from Triple-A Omaha to take the mound for the Royals against the Blue Jays, and did much better than the 10.80 ERA he posted his first time around in 2009. Hochevar allowed two runs on four hits in 6 2/3 innings and got his first major league victory since last July. To make room for Hochevar on the roster, Kansas City designated pitcher Horacio Ramirez for assignment.
• Felix Pie fouled a ball off the plate, and it ricocheted up and hit him in the throat, causing his removal from Baltimore's game on Saturday. He is day-to-day, and with Cesar Izturis still in the hospital after an emergency appendectomy, the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles will call up Oscar Salazar from Triple-A Norfolk, and place Izturis on the 15-day disabled list before Sunday's game. Don't expect Salazar to be used as anything much more than a warm body until Baltimore figures out exactly what they want to do going forward.
• The Mets activated Ryan Church from the 15-day disabled list, and he is expected to start in right field on Sunday. Emil Brown's career as a Met likely enters the annals of history after an embarrassing base-running gaffe on Saturday will be the lasting memory of his stay in New York. He was designated for assignment, sparing Fernando Martinez from a trip back to Triple-A Buffalo.
Stephania Bell: Bill: Sounds like he's leaning towards surgery if the specialist recommends it. He's headed to see William Myers, one of the foremost authorities on sports hernia surgeries and may very well end up getting it done. He thinks he could be back in four weeks, but I would push it to more like six if he has the procedure.
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Pierre Becquey: Yeah, Lowell's second-half woes are well documented, though heavily influenced by his Florida days. I like that swap mostly because Beltre's more likely to play out the whole season. Lowell's a greater injury risk.
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Friday's fantasy chat schedule:
• Watch out, John Smoltz. You may be about to be cut! After all, isn't that what teams do to veteran pitchers attempting to make a big-league comeback who do well in the minors? Smoltz pitched six solid innings for Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday, requiring only 74 pitches in the process. He's on schedule to join Boston around June 16 as long as they don't decide to "Tom Glavine" him.
• A day after being named to the Midwest League's All-Star Game, Cubs' prospect Josh Vitters continued his Class-A tear for Peoria, going 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI, and raising his 2009 stat line to .351, 13 home runs and 35 RBIs.
• Tommy Hanson has no history to cloud our judgment, just a lot of hopeful hype. We'll buy in against the Brewers and Manny Parra, who is 2-5 with a 9.09 ERA on the road this season.
• Coco Crisp is back in the Royals' lineup, and in 38 at-bats against Roy Halladay, is hitting .289, more than twice the .141 that the Royals have managed as a team over the past three years.