The last time the Boston Red Sox were truly reeling on the road, even a visit to lowly Seattle did little to improve Boston’s fortunes.
This time, perhaps they’ll feel more at home with a Washington state native on the mound.
Jon Lester will make his first start in his home state this season of the season on Monday, as the Red Sox - looking to end a five-game road skid - open a three-game set against the AL-worst Mariners.
Boston had lost seven straight road games when it arrived in Seattle on May 26, and even though it snapped that slide with a 5-3 win in the first game of the series, the Red Sox (57-43) still dropped two out of three. They’ve won just three of their last 14 games at Safeco Field dating back to July 2006.
Their road struggles haven’t subsided, as they’ve now lost 10 of their last 12 away from Fenway Park. They got swept in three games by the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend, and fell to 21-32 on the road overall.
They have scored just 13 total runs during their current five-game road losing streak, lowering their batting average with men in scoring position to .248 on the road.
Boston’s .280 overall team average leads the AL.
“We have to find a way to have better at-bats,” Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia told his team’s official Web site. “That’s the main thing. We’re not going to win games getting five or six hits and getting two or three runs. The approach is there. It’s just a matter of doing it.”
Pitching on the road has only slightly slowed Lester (7-3, 3.38 ERA), the Puyallup, Wash., native who hasn’t lost in nearly two months. The left-hander tossed a five-hitter at Yankee Stadium in his last road start July 3, striking out eight in Boston’s 7-0 win and lowering his road ERA to 3.92.
In two previous starts at Safeco Field, the 24-year-old has struggled, allowing nine runs and 16 hits in 10 total innings, though he did not receive a decision in either outing.
Those starts came in 2006 and 2007, however, before the cancer survivor’s breakout season of 2008, highlighted by a May 19 no-hitter against Kansas City.
“The past two times I’ve pitched there have been crazy,” Lester said of Seattle. “In ’06 it was my first time there (as a major-leaguer). In ’07 it was my first time back from cancer and everything. I think this time it won’t be as big a deal. It will be just a normal start and hopefully I can just go in there and pitch normally.”
Lester hasn’t pitched since July 8, when he gave up five runs in 7 1-3 innings against Minnesota and did not receive a decision. He still hasn’t lost since May 25, going 4-0 with a 3.17 ERA in eight starts since then.
He’ll face another hot left-hander in Jarrod Washburn, who has a 2.58 ERA in his last seven starts - but only two wins to show for it. Washburn (4-8, 4.83) has been the subject of trade rumors with the July 31 deadline approaching, especially with fellow Seattle southpaw Erik Bedard battling injuries.
“I would be lying if I said it wasn’t in the back of my mind,” Washburn told his team’s official Web site. “My name has been mentioned more than it ever has, but I don’t deal with it when I’m out there.”
The Mariners (38-60) dropped the final two games of their weekend series against Cleveland, and have now lost eight of 11 overall.