Jon Lester comes off DL, Clay Buchholz makes progress for Boston

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The American League’s best team seems poised to get a little better.

The Red Sox activated Jon Lester from the disabled list in advance of his start Monday against the Royals.  He’s slated to throw 80-85 pitches tonight, manager Terry Francona told CSNNE.com.

Lester missed three weeks with a left lat strain.

“Kind of stating the obvious that we’re really excited to have him back,” Francona said. “The only limitation we have tonight is probably a pitch count and that’s just because of common sense. But he feels good and there’s no restrictions pitching physically. There’s no issues there. Hopefully get back in a rhythm and get him back where he was in and turn him loose. Our guys have done a great job filling in for him but you need guys like Lester.”

As expected, J.D. Drew was placed on the DL to make room for Lester on the roster. Kyle Weiland was shifted to the bullpen for now.

But Lester’s return wasn’t the only good news for Boston today.  Clay Buchholz, out five weeks with a strained back, threw 30 pitches in a bullpen session and said it’s the best he’s felt.

“I think this is the biggest step in the right direction so far in this process,” Buchholz said. “I don’t feel like there was any hitch in the delivery. It was what I wanted to go out there and do.”

There is no timetable for Buchholz’s return.  From what he was telling the Boston Globe, he’s still a few weeks away.

“I want to be ready to go,” he said. “If it’s the middle of August, that’s good. If it’s September, that’s good, too. I want to try to come back and help this team get to the postseason and work our way from there.”

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.