Red Sox

Lester the lone bright spot in loss to Royals


Lester the lone bright spot in loss to Royals

By Maureen Mullen Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON With the score tied, one out, and a runner on first base in the sixth inning Monday night against the Royals, Jon Lester walked off the mound to a standing ovation. He would not get a decision or a quality start just the seventh time in his 19 starts he has failed to do so this season. But the Fenway Park crowd was happy to see the left-hander back on the mound for the first time since July 5.

In that game, against the Blue Jays at Fenway, Lester walked off the mound after four no-hit innings. But a left latissimus strain had sidelined him until Monday night.

By the time the Sox lost to the Royals, 3-1, after 14 innings at 1:59 a.m., Lesters outing had been long done. He went 5 13 innings against the Royals, giving up one run on seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts. He did not issue his first walk until the fifth inning, when Alcides Escobar led off with a five-pitch pass.

Before the game manager Terry Francona said Lester would be limited to 80-85 pitches. But Lester threw 89 pitches (55 for strikes, for a 62 percent strike rate), departing after giving up a two hits and a walk to lead off the sixth.

The Sox spotted Lester a slim one-run lead in the second, when Carl Crawford scored on Josh Reddicks double. Lester kept Kansas City off the scoreboard until the sixth.

Melky Cabrera, who is now 9-for-21 (.429, after going 2-for-3 Monday) against Lester, led off the inning with single to left and scored on Billy Butlers double to left. Butler was thrown out trying to third on the throw. After Eric Hosmer walked, Lester was done.

I thought he was very good, said Francona. That was very encouraging. He stayed with all his pitches. It was very good to see.

The lone run snapped a season-long 16-inning scoreless streak for Lester, including consecutive scoreless outings on June 30 at Philadelphia, when he went seven innings without allowing a run, and July 5 against Toronto. He has just one longer streak in his career, when he went 17 innings without allowing a run from Sept. 1 Sept. 13, 2009.

Lester, although satisfied with his outing, could feel the effects of the down time.

I felt good, he said. But I felt like I hadnt pitched in two weeks. As far as the lat goes, felt no pain, felt normal.

I was tired. You cant simulate a big league baseball game. I felt good for the first 4 , 5 innings. A little tired at the end. Build off this one. I should be fine for my next start.

Lester is 10-4 with a 3.23 ERA this season. He has had tremendous success against the Royals, going 4-1 with a 1.28 ERA in six career starts against. At Fenway Park, he is 4-0 with a 0.48 ERA against Kansas City, including his no-hitter on May 19, 2008. IN five of his six career outings, he has allowed one or no run. He has allowed one or no run in five straight games at Fenway, the second-longest streak by a Sox starter behind Roger Clemens, who went six starts from April 21, 1987 Aug. 16, 1991.

Lester has the best ERA against the Royals among pitchers with at least five starts since 2006, and second-best all-time behind Chad Ogeas 1.08.

Despite the loss, his record remains intact against the Royals. But this one was hard to take.

It stinks, he said. Wait around 2 hours for a five-hour baseball game. These ones arent fun.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall


HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement


MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.