It’s been an ugly couple of months for Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, but the captain has battled through his recent struggles to make sure that his teammates are ready to play day in and day out. In the eyes of manager Terry Francona, this leadership alone will make up for a slump any day of the week and that is why Varitek has consistently been in the line up.
“I won’t hit for him. We need him. I believe in him. I will always believe in him. When times are tough, you don’t waver from that,” Francona said. “If we want to get where we ultimately want to get, the faith in him will bear itself out.”
Francona’s faith paid off Monday night as Varitek connected on his eight homerun of the season off of Seattle’s starting pitcher Jarrod Washburn (4-9) to give Boston a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning. The Sox would tack on two more runs in the eighth inning behind a Jed Lowrie single to left that drove home Coco Crisp and Kevin Youkilis to make the score 4-0, which would be the games final.
“I had a good first two months, then a horrendous month and a half. I mean, some of the toughest time of my career,” Varitek said. “It’s there—I’ve already shown it’s there. I’ve just got to keep stringing it together.”
One player that certainly appreciated the lift from his captain was battery-mate Jon Lester who pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings en route to his eighth victory on the season. Coming into the game, Lester had never pitched very well in his hometown of Seattle. In his two previous starts vs. the Mariners, Lester had allowed nine earned runs in only 10 innings of work for an 8.10 ERA, his worst against any AL opponent.
“Unlike the last couple times here, I didn’t have the distractions or anything,” Lester said after being able to sleep in his own bed and then notching his fifth start of the season without allowing a run, including his May 19 no-hitter against Kansas City.
Lester was able to locate all of his pitches for strikes and was able to get a lot of groundball outs which is always a good sign. He struck out seven, allowed three fly outs and the rest were on the ground.
“It’s nice to come back home and pitch halfway decent,” he said.
With one out in the eighth inning, Willie Bloomquist laced a line drive right off of Lester’s right shin for an infield single that would end his night on the mound. The bases were loaded when he was taken out of the game and he was relived by Jonathan Papelbon who was able to get Raul Ibanez to ground into a double play to end the threat. Papelbon would go on to record his 29th save of the season retiring the side in order in the ninth. This was Papelbon’s first five out save of the 2008 season.
The win keeps Boston 1 ½ games behind the Tampa Bay in the AL East. The Rays also were victorious Monday beating Oakland by the score of 4-0 as well.
Looking ahead, Boston has a big home series coming up this weekend against the New York Yankees. New York has been playing much better baseball as of late, winning their last eight games at Yankee Stadium and are now only 4 ½ games behind the Rays and 3 games behind the Sox in the division standings.
Another reason why the series will be hyped is the return of Red Sox DH David Ortiz. After spending over six weeks on the DL for a wrist injury he suffered on May 31, Ortiz will be ready to go barring any setback in his minor league rehab assignment this week in Double-A Portland. In his four minor league games this week (three in Pawtucket and one in Portland), Ortiz has gone 5-12 (.417 average) connecting on three homeruns and seven RBI’s. The Big Papi is definitely ready to rejoin the Red Sox this weekend.
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