Lester, Verlander Duel Lives Up To Opening Day Hype
BOSTON (CBS) – Jon Lester was solid in his Opening Day bid against the Detroit Tigers, but did not get much support from the Red Sox’ bats.
His opposition had a lot to do with that.
Lester and Tigers ace Justin Verlander had themselves an entertaining pitchers’ duel on Opening Day, with the two giving up just one run in their 15 combined innings of work.
The Sox lefty went seven strong, allowing just one earned run off six hits and three walks. Lester struck out four, but more impressively, got the Tigers to ground into three double plays.
“Lester was terrific. He did just what he needed to do — put up innings,” manager Bobby Valentine said after the Tigers’ dramatic 3-2 win. “He did a great job. … He gave us 106 pitches, and other than a couple of pitches he threw when he was ahead in the count, I thought he was in command. Had his cutter working inside, his two-seamer away. His curveball was breaking over as strikes. There were a couple really close calls, too.”
“He was great. He had every pitch going for him,” said second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who went 1-for-4 with a run scored. “He was pretty darn good.”
Lester was much more critical of his outing though.
“It was just kind of a grind for me today; I didn’t have a feel for my off-speed pitches early on,” Lester said. “(I was) just trying to figure out ways to put guys away. It seemed like they didn’t really give me a chance there early on swinging. I was able to get a couple double plays early on which really helped me out.”
Jon Lester Postgame:
After getting two quick outs in the seventh inning, Jhonny Peralta doubled and scored when Alex Avila did the same to put Detroit up 1-0. With Verlander on the mound for the Tigers, it seemed that was all the Tigers would need.
“Every pitch he throws could be the best pitch in baseball,” Pedroia said of the reigning Cy Young winner and MVP. “He has great stuff and he keeps it out of the middle of the zone, too. When you’re doing that, you’re pretty darn tough to hit.”
Read: Opening Day Live Blog
Verlander held the Sox scoreless for eight innings, striking out seven while allowing just two hits. He set the Sox down in order five times, including the seventh and eighth innings. Boston stranded four runners against Verlander, including David Ortiz at third base in the top of the second.
“Obviously, Verlander is Verlander; he’s tough,” said Lester. “He didn’t give us a lot of opportunities, and the opportunities we had, he shut us down. Sometimes on this side, you have to tip your hat to the other guy and say he did a great job.”
With the Red Sox coming back in the ninth inning, neither pitcher factored into the decision. But neither disappointed, and both showed why they are considered with the best in the game.