OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Jon Lester has been through enough emotional extremes for a lifetime over the last two years.
After surviving lymphoma and winning a World Series, after throwing a no-hitter and hearing his father’s own diagnosis with cancer, the Boston left-hander seems to wish he could just get back to the mundane, everyday business of pitching—even when Lester isn’t pitching as well as he would like against the surging Oakland Athletics.
Six days after he held Kansas City hitless, Lester’s hopes for a second straight no-hitter ended with the first batter he faced Sunday. Jack Hannahan hit that leadoff single and later drove in two runs, and Jack Cust hit a two-run homer as the A’s completed a three-game sweep of the defending World Series champions with a 6-3 victory.
Lester (3-3) allowed seven hits and four runs over five innings, scuffling through early trouble before retiring the last six batters he faced, but the Red Sox limited him to 94 pitches after allowing him to throw 130 in the 18th no-hitter in club history. He emerged from his latest start furious with himself, yet seemingly grateful to think about something besides his personal highs and lows.
“All the positives we talked about before the season, it seemed I did the complete opposite,” Lester said. “All the things we’ve strived to better, and it seemed like I took a step back. It’s tough pitching out of jams every inning. I couldn’t get comfortable.”
Lester, who won the World Series-clinching game for Boston last fall after his remarkable comeback from cancer treatment, also revealed this weekend that his father, John, recently was diagnosed with lymphoma. John Lester’s cancer is highly treatable, the pitcher told ESPN before the Red Sox’s first trip of the season to his native Seattle area.
“It hasn’t,” Lester said when asked if his father’s condition had weighed on him. “I’ve always been out in the open. I just haven’t told you (media). I don’t want to get questions about that. I want to get asked questions about pitching, and focus on that. That’s something between my dad and me and my family. When I’m here, I don’t want to have to worry about that.”
Hannahan, who reached base four times after entering the game in an 0-for-10 slump, drove in two runs in the fourth inning of Oakland’s fourth consecutive win. Cust added his eighth homer on the first pitch by reliever Javier Lopez in the seventh, while Mike Sweeney and Emil Brown also had run-scoring hits for the young A’s, whose 28-23 record is a surprise to many after their offseason dumping of Dan Haren, Nick Swisher and Mark Kotsay.
“It’s huge,” Cust said. “They came in on a hot streak, and they’re the world champs. Our pitchers just did a great job. To keep the Red Sox to six runs in a three-game series, you can’t really ask anything more.”
Joe Blanton (3-6) labored through six inconsistent innings to win for the first time in five May starts, allowing five hits and four walks while striking out seven. Four relievers secured Blanton’s first win at the Coliseum this season, with Huston Street pitching the ninth for his 11th save in 13 chances.
“We have a lot of young players, and when they come in against some veteran guys and try to win, it just has to make you feel when you beat a team like that, you can beat anybody,” A’s manager Bob Geren said.
David Ortiz homered and Manny Ramirez had a two-run single among his three hits for the Red Sox, who lost their seventh straight road game—their longest drought since 2001—in the opening series of a 10-game road trip. Boston’s loss and Tampa Bay’s 5-4 home victory over Baltimore pushed the Rays past the Red Sox again into first place in the AL East.
Boston has won 10 straight at Fenway Park, but its powerful lineup followed up a one-hit effort against Justin Duchscherer on Saturday night with just one extra-base hit—Ortiz’s first-inning homer, his 11th of the season.
“If you don’t give yourself a ton of chances, you need a break,” manager Terry Francona said. “We didn’t give ourselves many chances.”
After Ortiz’s drive, the A’s erased any thoughts of Johnny Vander Meer’s famed back-to-back no-hitters in 1938 when Hannahan stroked a leadoff single into left field. Brown followed with a two-out RBI single.
With Boston down 4-1, Ortiz came within a few feet of tying the score in the fifth with a long fly that went just foul down the right-field line, but he instead drew Blanton’s third walk of the inning. Ramirez then drove in two runs with his third single, but Blanton got two strikeouts to end the rally.
Red Sox 1B Kevin Youkilis extended his major league record with his 231st game without an error—just barely. He failed to snag SS Julio Lugo’s low throw in the eighth inning, but Lugo got the error because the throw apparently bounced in the dirt. Youkilis initially set the record in Oakland last month, surpassing Steve Garvey. … Ramirez improved to 13-for-21 in his career against Blanton. The slugger sat out Saturday while mired in a 17-for-90 skid. … Ortiz’s homer was his 236th as a DH, breaking his tie with Harold Baines for third place on baseball’s career list. Only Oakland’s Frank Thomas, who went 2-for-4 Sunday, and Edgar Martinez have more.