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The Grand Slam: Jon Lester dominates A's with career-high 15 strikeouts, allows one hit

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

If you hear a cash register ringing off in the distance, chances are it's Boston Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester counting the money he's about to receive during the offseason. After turning down an absurdly low $70 million offer from the Red Sox just prior to the regular season — apparently their ideas of a hometown discount doesn't quite mesh — Lester is likely to test the open market over the winter, and with starts like Saturday's gem against the Oakland A's under his belt, stands to cash in big.

Over eight incredible innings, Lester held Oakland to one Craig Gentry bloop single in the third inning while striking out a career-high 15 batters to lead Boston to a 6-3 victory

Honestly, dominant may not do it justice. His outing was epic because it moved him into elite company on two different fronts.

First, he's the first Red Sox pitcher with 15 strikeouts in a game since Pedro Martinez in 2001. Also, he's now only one of three left-handers to have at least 15 strikeouts while allowing one hit or fewer in a game over last 100 years, joining Randy Johnson and Warren Spahn.

Said manager John Farrell, via the Boston Globe:

“The combination of power and command was impressive,” manager John Farrell said of Lester. “He was locked in, seemingly from the first pitch of the game. He maintained his stuff throughout. Four pitches for strikes, and three of those on both sides of the plate. He was in command from the start.”

Lester, on the other hand, was more complimentary of his offense, which immediately gave him a four-run cushion thanks to Jonny Gomes' first-inning grand slam.

“Four early is huge for any pitcher,” Lester said after setting a new team record for strikeouts by a lefty in a nine-inning game. “You know you don’t have to be as fine.”

A relaxed Lester was better than fine, which may inspire Boston to give him more leads to work with going forward. After his first inning on Saturday, Lester had thrown 686 pitches on the season, but the Red Sox only led for 13 percent of those. That number went up on Saturday, and all parties hope it continues trending that way. 

TANAKA DELIVERS QUALITY START : Even in an "off" game, Masahiro was pretty close to excellent in holding the Tampa Bay Rays to three runs on eight hits over seven victorious innings. For the third time in six starts, Tanaka did not issue a walk, but he did strikeout five and recorded another quality start, which gives him a rare distinction.

The only other Yankees pitcher to start a season with a quality start and five or more strikeouts in each of his first six starts was Mike Mussina in 2006. Eight years later, they still like Mussina quite a bit in New York. Odds are eight years down the road, they'll still like Tanaka quite a bit too. He's now 4-0 on the season after New York ran away with a 9-3 victory

ROCKIES KEEP ON ROLLING:

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(Getty Images)

The Milwaukee Brewers may have to relinquish their title as baseball's most surprising team if the Colorado Rockies notch their 20th win on Sunday. The Rockies got No. 19 on Saturday night thanks to a relentless offensive attack that saw them battle back from a six-run deficit with an eight-run inning in the fifth, and then overcome a one-run deficit in the ninth to win it 11-10 on Charlie Culberson's walk-off two-run homer.

Troy Tulowitzki contributed three hits in the victory, raising his season average to an even .400. His seventh-inning single was career hit No. 1,000. Second year third baseman Nolan Arenado continued his early production as well, extending his hitting streak to 23 games with a fifth-inning grand slam. But it all came down to the pinch-hitter Culberson in the ninth, and he finished the job against Kyle Farnsworth with a rocket homer to straight away center. 

Some may look at the numbers and call this game a Coors Field special. That's part of the story, yes. But the Rockies have been mashing everywhere, scoring an MLB best 174 runs in 32 games. A great deal of it has come with Michael Cuddyer on the disabled list, Wilin Rosario hurting and Carlos Gonzalez slumping, so there's actually potential for them to get better. With that in mind, It might be time to keep an eye trained on Denver. 

STERLING DEBUT: The Los Angeles Angels dipped into their minor league system on Saturday, recalling 24-year-old first baseman C.J. Cron to make his MLB debut. The move paid off nicely as Cron's three hits helped lead the Angels to a 5-3 victory.

Cron delivered an RBI single on the very first pitch he saw in the first inning, which got the Angels out to a 1-0 lead. He later added his second RBI on a broken-bat single and also a double to become the fourth Angel ever to collect at least three hits in his debut.

It's unknown what Cron's role will be going forward. He's certainly not taking a job away from Albert Pujols, but perhaps some at-bats are coming as the designated hitter. Chances are he's up to play somewhere, so it will be worth watching to see where he fits in. 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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