Lester Shines As Sox Snap Drought--Sort Of

The Red Sox didn't win Monday. But they didn't lose either.

That qualifies as progress for the skidding Sox, who battled the Mets to a 1-1, 10-inning tie in a Grapefruit League game in Port St. Lucie, FL. The Sox are 0-6-1 in their last seven games and 1-8-1 since opening the Grapefruit League season with a pair of wins over the crosstown Twins. In addition, the Sox have scored just seven runs in their last five games and just one run in their last 19 innings.

The Sox were in danger of dropping their seventh in a row until Brandon Moss delivered a game-tying sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth. The Sox were limited to five hits by a quintet of Mets pitchers, including two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, who allowed two hits in four innings. Jacoby Ellsbury and Chris Carter—the first and ninth batters in the order—had two hits each while George Kottaras had the other hit.

On the mound, the Sox received an encouraging performance from starter Jon Lester, who suddenly looks like a candidate to start Opening Day with Josh Beckett battling back woes and Daisuke Matsuzaka uncertain to make the trip to Japan due to his the impending birth of his second child.

Lester allowed just two hits and one walk and struck out five over four innings—the longest outing this spring by a Sox starter. "You don't look at a different role or a different spot or anything like that," Lester told reporters when asked about a potential Opening Day start. "You just get the opportunity to get the ball and go pitch. That's all you can really do."

Hideki Okajima followed Lester with two scoreless frames before Javier Lopez tossed a scoreless inning. Craig Hansen's chances of winning the last spot in the bullpen took yet another blow when he gave up a run in the eighth inning. He's posted a 13.50 ERA and allowed six hits while issuing six walks in 4 2/3 innings over four appearances.

Craig Breslow and Lee Gronkiewicz finished up for the Sox with a scoreless inning apiece.

The Sox will attempt to get back on the winning track again Tuesday, when they host the Mets at City of Palms Park. Tim Wakefield is scheduled to start for the Sox at 1:05 p.m.

Theo has no regrets on Santana: There were times, particularly during the winter meetings in Nashville in early December, when it seemed the Sox were the most likely destination for Santana.

The Sox and Twins discussed various permutations of a blockbuster, but talks between the two clubs cooled after the winter meetings and never really heated back up. That opened the door for the Mets, who landed Santana in exchange for four prospects shortly before spring training.

While Theo Epstein declined Monday to discuss the specifics of the Sox' offers, the Twins reportedly sought some combination of the likes of Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury, Michael Bowden and Justin Masterson. "In my mind, it was too much," Epstein told reporters. "It was not juts one or two really good young layers. It was a whole generation of young players that I think will make a significant impact for us over the long haul."

Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752.

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