BALTIMORE -- And for their first pick as the pitcher they wish they never had to face again, the Baltimore Orioles select ...
The baseball wise guys love to use the term "regression to the mean" to describe how the law of averages comes into play in baseball.
Well, the Orioles made no progress Thursday night toward balancing the ledger with Lester, who is 14-0 in 17 career starts against Baltimore after dispatching the O's, 6-2, as the Sox salvaged the finale of a three-game set here.
Lester’s streak is the longest against any team by an active pitcher, and ties him with Tom Brewer for most consecutive wins by any Sox pitcher against a team. Brewer was a right-hander in the '50s who feasted on the lowly Kansas City Athletics (14 in a row, 21-8 overall) but got lit up by the good teams (6-18, 6.49 vs. the Yankees, 36-55 overall against teams with a plus-.500 record).
Lester doesn’t have that problem. He beats everybody (64-26 in 129 career starts for a .711 winning percentage). If his career ended tomorrow, he would have the second-best winning percentage of any pitcher since 1900 with at least 50 decisions, second to Spud Chandler (109-43, .717).
It’s just that he beats the Orioles with more regularity than anybody else.
“He started out walk, hit, hit, got the double play, and then just kicked it into gear,’’ Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “I thought he threw his changeup as good as -- he really slowed down a lot of hitters with that changeup.’’
Lester has never lost in Camden Yards, going 7-0 with a 2.47 ERA after holding the Orioles to two runs on four hits and three walks in eight innings, striking out five. Vladimir Guerrero's solo home run off Lester tied the score at 2 in the sixth, but Carl Crawford doubled and scored the tie-breaking run on Dustin Pedroia's infield hit in the seventh, and the Sox bunched three singles and two walks to score three more in the eighth.
“He was real good,’’ Francona said. “And he needed to be, because we had a chance to spread it out and didn’t. But he pitched so well, he gave us enough time until we finally did.’’
Trip ends on winning note: The Sox return home with a 6-3 record on this three-city, 10-day trip, splitting two in Oakland, sweeping four in Anaheim, and taking one of three here.
Ell's bells: Jacoby Ellsbury had three hits, scored twice and drove in two runs with a flared single in the eighth. It was his second three-hit game of the series and gave him seven hits in 14 at-bats in the series.
Pillar of Salty: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who lined out to the warning track in center with the bases loaded to end the sixth, came up again with the bases loaded in the eighth and delivered an RBI single to center.
Gonzalez makes good on vow: Adrian Gonzalez said it was only a matter of time before he started hitting, and that time may have arrived. Gonzalez had two doubles and a single in his first three at-bats, driving in two runs, and has doubled in four straight games.
Break-even month? The Sox, after starting 2-10, are now 11-13, and with wins in their next two games against Seattle at Fenway Park, could still finish .500 for the month, which would be a remarkable achievement.
Youkilis tweaks hip: Third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who walked and scored in the eighth, came out of the game in the bottom of the inning for Jed Lowrie. Francona said Youkilis’ left hip stiffened on him after sliding on a double play in the first inning and came out of the game as a precaution. He’s expected to play Friday night when the Sox return home to face the Seattle Mariners in the first game of an 11-game homestand, the team’s longest of the season.