Offense struggles as Sox's winning streak ends

Offense struggles as Sox's winning streak ends

Offense struggles as Sox's winning streak ends
BOSTON -- Red Sox lefty Jon Lester didn't become a two-time All-Star by simply being pleased with a quality start. In fact, Lester expects excellence from himself.

That's why he seemed thoroughly frustrated following Friday night's 4-1 loss to the Braves.

Over seven innings, Lester gave up 10 hits but just three runs, walking one and striking out five.

Much like his performance in this game, Lester has hardly been bad this season, but he hasn't been great either.

He is now 4-5 with a 4.48 ERA.

"I'm getting tired of the same old [stuff]," Lester said. "I'm making good pitches and they're getting hit. I don't know what else to do. The process is there. I'm still not getting results. It's the same book, different chapter for me."

Lester thought he had a good game plan, but the Braves adjusted to it.

"They did a good job early on of knowing what we normally do against lefties and we altered it and still got hit," Lester said. "I don't know. You're going to have to go ask them, go ask other hitters what I'm doing. I don't know. I'm not up in the zone, down on the corners and [I'm] still getting whacked around. I'm at a loss right now."

Though Lester was the losing pitcher, his performance would have been good enough for the Red Sox to win a lot of times.

But the offense wasn't there for Boston in this one.

Facing Jair Jurrjens, a pitcher who had been in Triple-A for the past two months, the Red Sox's bats went stone cold.

Jurrjens celebrated his return to the Major Leagues by stifling Boston throughout an impressive outing.

"I told him that International League must be a tough league," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "He came out against these Red Sox, who have been as hot as a firecracker, and did a nice job navigating through that lineup."

The Red Sox searched for a crack, but they couldn't find one.

"He was lights out, just commanding his fastball, getting some early swings on his changeups," said outfielder Cody Ross. "He pitched really well; he pitched better than he has in a while."

Adrian Gonzalez's single to left in the first would be Boston's last hit until Will Middlebrooks led off the eighth with a double.

The loss snapped Boston's five-game winning streak.

Middlebrooks' double was the first hint of a rally by the Sox. With two outs, Daniel Nava lined a double off the scoreboard in left, bringing home Middlebrooks.

That was all for Jurrjens, as the Braves turned the game over to their bullpen.

Chad Durbin came on and got Dustin Pedroia on a hard grounder to short, ending that threat. Pedroia is batting .145 over his 62 at-bats since returning from a right thumb injury on June 5.

"They're pitching him tough," said manager Bobby Valentine. "He hasn't gotten those pitches he can really drive. He's battling. He'll get hot -- hotter than a firecracker."

Lester kept the Braves off the board the first three innings, but he wasn't so fortunate in the fourth. Freddie Freeman led off that rally with a single. Jason Heyward ripped a one-out double off the wall in left-center. Matt Diaz broke the scoreless tie with a fielder's-choice grounder and Andrelton Simmons belted a line-drive RBI double to left.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox couldn't get anything established against Jurrjens, who had been in Triple-A since April 23.

It wasn't a spectacular start for Lester, but he at least held the Braves in check for most of the night. Atlanta extended its lead to 3-0 on a sacrifice fly by Simmons in the sixth.

"There were a lot of really good pitches that got hit," said Valentine. "I thought he threw the ball extremely well. We could have won that game very easily."

The start of the game was delayed by one hour and 14 minutes due to rain.

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.