The Red Sox entered the 2012 season with high expectations, especially after a heart-wrenching September collapse to end 2011.
Things didn't start out on the right foot for the Red Sox this year, as injuries and ineffectiveness struck the core of the roster, leaving Boston in last place in the AL East. They were dealt another blow Saturday when starting pitcher Josh Beckett landed on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.
"You can't worry about it," pitcher Jon Lester said. "It's stuff we can't control. This game is full of stuff you can't control. If you let it eat at you, it just makes for an even longer season.
"We hope that the injured players are going to come back shortly. We're just going to keep trying to show up everyday and grinding out games and see if we can't win some more."
CSNNewEngland's Sean McAdam interviewed Theo Epstein prior to Friday's game to discuss the state of Epstein's old team. The new Cubs president of baseball operations pointed to a hangover effect from the September collapse as part of Boston's slow start, but he also mentioned the Red Sox starting pitching.
Boston's rotation ranks 12th in the American League with a 4.82 rotation ERA. Prior to Saturday, Lester was carrying a bloated 4.57 ERA and off to one of the worst starts of his career.
But he picked up the win in the Red Sox 4-3 victory over the Cubs Saturday, throwing 6.2 innings and allowing just three runs -- all of which came on an opposite-field home run from Luis Valbuena in the seventh inning.
"Lester had six great innings," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "He was in total control, working through the humidity, working through his setbacks...He did what it took to get us a win."
"Johnny pitched great," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "He really had everything working. His changeup was probably the best I've seen. It was just one pitch at the end there. You can't really hang your head on that because he pitched a great game."
Lester allowed seven hits, but was saved in the first inning when second baseman Dustin Pedroia snared a hard-hit line drive from Starlin Castro and turned it into an inning-ending double-play.
"I threw 102 pitches and one was a mistake," Lester said, referring to the Valbuena homer. "It's still frustrating. To start the game, a couple hard-hit line drives. Pedroia made a great play on the double play there in the first, getting me out of that inning.
"Other than that, you look at the hits they had -- A couple flares to right, three infield hits. I have to take that positive from the bad contact. One squared up ball gives them three runs and it is what it is.
"I'll take the hits I gave up tonight with the exception of one. Bad contact is good contact. I'll take my chances on getting guys out with that."
The Cubs and chairman Tom Ricketts have been trying to copy the Red Sox model for over a year. When Ricketts hired Epstein in October, their goal was to build a team capable of sustained success.
Epstein accomplished that goal with the Red Sox, and Lester was a big reason why. The 28-year-old lefty sat atop the Boston rotation, compiling a 65-32 record and 3.33 ERA from 2008-11. He topped the 200-inning mark for three straight years and struck out 225 batters in both '09 and '10.
But 2012 has been a different story for Lester and the frustration showed in the locker room after the game.
"I have to keep executing and doing the same thing," he said. "I've been saying that for every interview. It seems like it's getting redundant."