One Boston Red Sox rookie pitcher blew his first save but still managed to win Friday night’s series opener with the Texas Rangers. Another takes the mound to begin a long Saturday of baseball at Fenway Park.
Highly-touted left-hander Jon Lester makes his major league debut for Boston in the first game of a day-night doubleheader as the Red Sox and Rangers continue their weekend set.
Rookie closer Jonathan Papelbon suffered his first blown save in 21 opportunities Friday night when he allowed a game-tying single to Texas’ Hank Blalock in the top of the eighth inning. Papelbon got the win, however, after Mike Lowell’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning scored Manny Ramirez with the winning run in a 4-3 victory.
It was the fifth consecutive home win for the Red Sox (35-23), who returned to Fenway for the first time this month after going 4-5 on a nine-game road trip. Boston improved to 17-8 at home this season.
The Red Sox recalled Lester, the team’s first selection from the 2002 draft, after Friday’s contest. The 22-year-old left-hander struggled with the major league club in three spring training appearances, going 0-2 with a 19.50 ERA, but recovered to post a 3-4 record and 2.70 ERA in 11 starts for Triple-A Pawtucket.
“I’m rooting for him, just as everybody else on the team is rooting for him,” said Papelbon, who was Lester’s teammate last season with Double-A Portland. “If he just goes out there and trusts his stuff, and has confidence in himself, he’ll be fine.
“He’s got great stuff and great potential. He’ll be all right. I’m not really worried about him failing. I expect him to come out here and do well.”
Lester will be opposed by another hot rookie pitcher in John Rheinecker (2-0, 1.77 ERA). Rheinecker has given up just two runs in 16 1-3 innings to win his last two starts. He limited the Chicago White Sox to two runs and seven hits in eight innings on Sunday in a 10-2 victory over the defending World Series champions.
“It’s a confidence booster,” Rheinecker said. “Hopefully, the team is getting confident in me. I’m just as confident in them that they’re going to score runs.”
Friday’s three-run output was the lowest for the Rangers (32-28) during their current 10-game road trip, on which they are 4-3. Combined with Thursday’s 16-12 loss to Kansas City, Texas has dropped consecutive games for the first time since May 23-24, but remains the only club in the AL West with a winning record.
The Rangers will send John Wasdin (0-0, 0.00) to the mound in the nightcap for his first start since having his contract purchased from the minors on June 1. The right-hander made one relief appearance, pitching 2 1-3 perfect innings in last Saturday’s 8-6 loss to the White Sox.
Wasdin, who compiled a 19-16 record while pitching for Boston from 1997-2000, has struggled against his old club since leaving, going 1-3 with an 8.68 ERA in eight appearances versus Boston including two starts.
Josh Beckett (7-3, 5.27) will try to return to his early-season form as he opposes Wasdin. The right-hander has allowed 14 runs and six homers over six innings in his last two starts. On Monday at New York, he gave up eight runs and seven hits—two homers—in just 1 1-3 innings of a 13-5 defeat.
Although he has only thrown 70 innings this season, the right-hander has already matched his career high with 16 home runs allowed. Beckett yielded 16 homers in 156 2-3 innings while pitching for Florida in 2004.
Beckett’s Red Sox debut was a 2-1 victory at Texas on April 5, when he limited the Rangers to one run and seven hits in seven innings. He did not allow a homer in the contest, his only career appearance against the Rangers.