The Boston Red Sox are on the verge of their worst season-opening losing streak at Fenway Park in 30 years.
Turning to Jon Lester gives them a strong chance to prevent that from happening.
Lester will try to pick up where he left off last season at home, and help the Red Sox salvage a win from this three-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.
Boston (2-3) owned the best home record in the AL last season at 53-28, and won six of eight there during the postseason on its way to a World Series title.
So far, this year hasn’t gone quite as smoothly at Fenway. The Red Sox opened their home schedule Friday by giving up four runs in the ninth to lose 6-2 to Milwaukee (3-2) before falling 7-6 in 11 innings the next day.
The Brewers have knocked around Boston’s pitchers for a .344 average with three homers and 10 doubles. Clay Buchholz was particularly poor Saturday, getting tagged for six runs and a career-high 13 hits – two homers – in 4 1-3 innings.
"For the second consecutive day we faced a team where when we mislocated in the strike zone they capitalized on it," manager John Farrell said.
Farrell is hoping Lester can prevent Boston from losing its first three home games for the first time since an 0-4 start in 1984. The team hasn’t been swept at Fenway by Milwaukee since dropping all three games Oct. 1-3, 1993, when the Brewers were in the AL.
Lester, though, went 7-1 with a 3.09 ERA in 13 home starts last year, and he was even better in the postseason, compiling a 1.25 ERA while winning two of three outings.
He pitched well enough to win in the season opener Monday, yielding two runs with eight strikeouts in seven innings while the offense went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position during a 2-1 loss at Baltimore.
"I thought Jon Lester was in control of the ballgame," Farrell told the team’s official website.
Lester allowed four runs with eight strikeouts in eight innings of a 4-2 loss to Milwaukee on June 18, 2011. He’s 0-1 with a 4.62 ERA in four home interleague starts since.
The Brewers are slated to counter with Yovani Gallardo, who yielded four hits in six innings of Monday’s 2-0 season-opening win over Atlanta. That was a welcome change after Gallardo went 12-10 with a career-worst 4.18 ERA last year, while his 144 strikeouts snapped his stretch of four straight seasons with at least 200.
Those struggles don’t concern manager Ron Roenicke.
"With Yovani, I keep saying the guy knows how to win," Roenicke told the team’s official website. "Any time you get a pitcher out there that understands the game and what he needs to do to win ballgames – it’s not always ERA – it’s how you pitch when you need to win ballgames, and he knows how to do that."
Gallardo will now try to continue last season’s late road success. He posted a 1.35 ERA while winning his final three starts away from Milwaukee. However, he was pounded in his only visit to Fenway on June 19, 2011, surrendering eight runs – five earned – and two homers in three innings of a 12-3 defeat.
Khris Davis has six hits with three doubles in this series after going 0 for 8 in the first three games. The left fielder had a career-high four hits Saturday, doubling in the 11th before scoring on Logan Schafer’s double.
It’s unclear if Ryan Braun will be back in the lineup after a thumb injury sidelined him Saturday. The Brewers slugger is 1 for 16 this season.