History Repeats

Red Sox's Lester Continues Dominance Of O's, Moving To 9-0 Vs. Them In Career

July 26, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

BOSTON - - Major League Baseball rules stipulate that, barring rain or another unusual occurrence, a team must get the final three outs of the ninth inning for a game to be official. Yet, there was a sense of finality Saturday night when David Ortiz's three-run homer off Jeremy Guthrie landed in the center-field bleachers.

And the first inning hadn't even ended yet.

Jon Lester was on the mound for the Boston Red Sox, and the Orioles were at Fenway Park, making the end result all too predictable. Lester didn't overwhelm the Orioles as he usually does, but he never was truly threatened in Boston's 7-2 victory before an announced 38,063.

In allowing two earned runs and striking out nine over 7 1/3 innings, Lester improved to 9-0 with a 2.21 ERA against the Orioles in 11 career starts. The left-hander is the first pitcher to win his first nine decisions against the Orioles since the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1954.

The Red Sox also beat the reeling Orioles at Fenway for the 11th straight time, outscoring them 80-29 in the process.

"You've got to hate this place," said Guthrie who allowed five earned runs, all with two outs, over 6 2/3 innings. "You've got to hate playing here. I don't enjoy it. I'd like to win a game here. It just seems like it's been a tough place. They're a good baseball team, and I think that's obviously the major part of it. They play very well. They pitch well, and they do all the things right to win games."

Asked whether he had any explanation for the 11 straight losses at Fenway, Orioles manager Dave Trembley said tersely: "I really don't. I don't have any tricky phrase. I don't have any anecdote. I don't have anything to say about it."

It's not that the Orioles (41-55) are seeing positive results at other road venues. They've lost five straight overall and are 1-7 on their second-half-opening road trip, which comes to a merciful end this afternoon with the team trying to avoid a three-game sweep.

The Orioles are also 6-29 in their past 35 games at Fenway Park and 2-27 in their past 29 road games in American League East ballparks. That includes a 1-16 mark this season. Over their past 50 divisional road games, the Orioles are 9-41 and have won just two of their past 17 series. And against the Red Sox specifically, the Orioles have dropped 11 of their past 12 contests and 15 of their past 17.

"I know it's there, and I really don't know what else to say other than the fact that things haven't worked out," Trembley said.

That statement could easily apply to the Orioles' struggles against Lester (9-7) as well. Among active pitchers, only Randy Johnson, who is 13-0 in his career against the Chicago Cubs, has more wins against a single opponent without a loss than Lester does against the Orioles.

The last Red Sox pitcher to win his first nine career decisions against the Orioles franchise was Dutch Leonard, who matched that feat against the St. Louis Browns from 1913 to 1915.

Asked whether there was almost a sense of acceptance every time the Orioles face Lester, Trembley said: "I sure hope not, and I wouldn't expect that. We compete, we battle. I think that's about as far removed from anybody's thought process as I could imagine."

In three starts against the Orioles this season spanning 21 1/3 innings, Lester has surrendered just two runs on 17 hits and four walks while striking out 26. The Orioles did finally score off him Saturday, breaking an 18-inning scoreless drought against the pitcher with two runs in the fourth. It took consecutive two-out singles by Matt Wieters and Cesar Izturis.

But that was it as the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters - Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Aubrey Huff - went a combined 0-for-12 against Lester with six strikeouts and five groundouts.

"He's been pretty good against a lot of people," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "It seems like we face him every time we play them, and he seems to pitch pretty well every time. ... I think he's one of the best lefties in the game for sure."

Guthrie (7-9), meanwhile, pitched well at times but never got into a groove until his team was already in a 4-0 hole. Ortiz's drive was the 23rd homer Guthrie allowed this season, tops in the American League. Jacoby Ellsbury also hit two-out doubles in the second and fourth innings.

"Way too many mistakes, especially with the two outs," Guthrie said. "Balls were up, and they put good swings on them. I had great work in between [starts], went out there and just did not execute well and pitched really poorly."

Box score

for Saturday's game PG 4


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