The left-hander - a possible Game 1 playoff starter for Boston next week - will look to bounce back after struggles and injury marred his previous start as the Red Sox face the visiting Cleveland Indians, who are opening their final series under manager Eric Wedge.
Boston manager Terry Francona got a major scare Friday night in the Bronx, when a line drive by New York’s Melky Cabrera(notes) struck Lester on the right leg. Lester had to leave the game, but escaped with just a bruised quadriceps and did not miss a start.
“I felt fine,” Lester said after throwing on Monday. “No problems and didn’t feel anything in the knee.”
Depending on his status, Lester could open Boston’s AL division series against the Los Angeles Angels. The Red Sox would typically hand the ball to Josh Beckett(notes), but he was scratched from a start this week due to back spasms.
Lester (14-8, 3.52 ERA) has also been Boston’s best pitcher in the latter stages of the season, going 11-2 with a 2.13 ERA in 20 starts before facing the Yankees. He allowed five runs and eight hits in 2 1-3 innings of the 9-5 defeat.
The Red Sox have won all five of Lester’s previous starts against Cleveland even though he has a 4.76 ERA in those outings. He allowed five runs in six innings against the Indians on April 29, but Boston won 6-5 in 10 innings.
There may not be as much run support if the Red Sox start a similar lineup to the one they did Wednesday. After clinching the AL wild card Tuesday night by virtue of Texas’ loss to the Angels, Boston played almost all reserves in a 12-0 loss to Roy Halladay(notes) and Toronto.
“It’s not going to affect next week,” Francona said. “Still, terrible night.”
The Red Sox (91-67) were swept by the Blue Jays after getting the same result in New York. The six consecutive losses matched their longest skid of the season, but they haven’t dropped seven straight since a nine-game losing streak from Aug. 25-Sept. 4, 2001.
Cleveland (65-93) has had much bigger problems, and the club’s woeful season cost Wedge his job Wednesday. He will still manage this four-game series.
“I still wanted to finish what we started this year. I felt it was the right thing to do,” said Wedge, who spent seven years with Cleveland and took the team to the brink of an AL pennant in 2007 before losing to Boston.
Martinez, who had spent his entire carer with Cleveland before the trade, is batting .332 with 36 RBIs in 52 games with the Red Sox.
Cleveland had won the first game 5-1, but still went 7-21 in September, the second-worst record in the majors in the month.
Rookie Carlos Carrasco(notes) (0-3, 9.00) certainly didn’t help, as the Indians lost each of his first four big-league starts after his recall from the minors Sept. 1. The right-hander, acquired from Philadelphia in the Cliff Lee(notes) trade July 29, will take another shot at his first major league victory Thursday.