MINNEAPOLIS -- Save your breath, Jon Lester advises. Don’t blame the calendar.
"I don’t think April has anything to do with it," Lester said after a 5-2 Red Sox loss to the Minnesota Twins on Monday dropped his record to 2-5 with a 5.08 ERA in 14 career starts in the month.
"Obviously they’re not what I’m wanting as far as results, and today I just stunk. Didn’t make pitches, don’t know what else to say."
Lester threw 107 pitches, only 55 percent of which (59) were strikes. He frequently fell behind batters; he had only 37 percent (10-of-27) first-pitch strikes. Seven of the Twins’ nine hits came off his fastball, which topped out Monday at 94 miles an hour.
"Obviously it’s not what I wanted to do. Do I want to do better? Yeah, I wanted to do better yesterday. I can’t do anything else. I’ve got to take the same mindset, the same work ethic the past four years, and just go out and pitch.
"I sat here last year and said it’s going to get better eventually, and I still believe that. I don’t think it has anything to do with the month or the time of year. I just have to be better executing pitches."
The Twins did a good job laying off pitches out of the strike zone, swinging at just 11 of 59 pitches out of the zone. The only pitch Lester threw with consistent command was his slider, especially to right-handed batters (10 of 13 strikes).
(Thanks to Inside Edge for material in this report.)
Good news, bad news for Ortiz
David Ortiz doubled to left-center Monday in four trips, but also struck out twice more, giving him six punchouts in the last two games and 11 in his first 22 at-bats.
Ortiz, who declined to talk after Sunday’s 4-K outing in Kansas City, made himself available after Monday’s game at his locker, but was brief in his responses.
Encouraged by the opposite-field hit? “Yeah, yeah, of course.’’
Might it get him going? “Hopefully.’’
What about the fact he is seeing so many pitches, including 30 on Sunday: “You see that many pitches, you've got to be patient. Wait for your pitch, man.’’
His impression of Target Field, where home fans gave the former Twin a warm ovation: "It’s nice. It’s nice. They have a little problem with shadows, but that’s everywhere, like in Fenway. Other than that, cool."
ESPN researcher Jason McCallum offers some numbers that underscore Ortiz’s early-season issues.
Ortiz has missed 44 percent of his swings this season, more than double the league average (20 percent), while his take percentage -- the percentage of pitches taken in the strike zone -- is also well above the league average (46 percent to 33 percent). With two strikes, Ortiz has taken a quarter of the strikes thrown to him, compared to the major-league average of 11 percent.
Conclusion: He’s missing pitches he should be hitting, and taking pitches he should be hitting.