Jon Lester struck out a career-high 15 batters and allowed just one hit over eight scoreless innings this afternoon in a 6-3 victory over the Athletics in Fenway Park in Boston.
It was a dominant performance from Lester, who walked two batters on the day and gave up his lone hit on a single by Craig Gentry in the third inning. The southpaw struck out the final three batters he faced in the eighth inning and was pulled after throwing 119 pitches. The A’s made things interesting after Chris Capuano took over in the top of the ninth inning, but Koji Uehara managed to snuff out the rally to secure the victory, albeit in shaky fashion.
Lester’s previous career-high for strikeouts was 13, which he did on July 24, 2010 against the Mariners. The 30-year-old is the first Red Sox pitcher to strike out 15 batters in a game since Pedro Martinez did it in 2000.
Lester, an impending free agent, now holds a 2.59 ERA and 58/10 K/BB ratio in 48 2/3 innings over seven starts this season. Perhaps the Red Sox should have been a bit more generous during extension talks in the spring?
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.