Lester looks for repeat performance

Lester looks for repeat performance

When the Red Sox attempt to sweep their first series of a nine-game Interleague homestand on Wednesday night against the Nationals, the teams will be sending out two pitchers who are short on experience and large on potential, having made a combined six Major League starts.

Jon Lester, Boston's top pitching prospect, will make his third career start for the Red Sox and his second start at Fenway Park against Washington right-hander Shawn Hill.

In his Major League debut at Fenway, Lester pitched 4 1/3 innings, giving up five hits and three runs in a no-decision against Texas. He was scheduled to pitch the first half of a day-night doubleheader after being called up from Pawtucket on June 10, but was forced to sit through a 4-hour, 47-minute rain delay before throwing his first pitch.

"No matter if I'm in 'A' ball or up here, I always get nervous and I'm never relaxed before a start. I'm always amped up and ready to go," Lester said. "Nothing's changed preparation-wise. It's all the same."

His first start on the road was in Atlanta against Tim Hudson and the Braves. He earned his first Major League win while giving up one run and striking out five over six innings.

Lester, 22, became the youngest Red Sox pitcher to win a game since Juan Pena on May 14, 1999, at the age of 21 against Anaheim.

Due to the injuries of Matt Clement and David Wells, the Red Sox have searched to find arms that can eat up innings in between the starts of Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield and Josh Beckett. However, the progression and poise of Lester may have found him a seat at the dinner table.

"You've got to make your pitches and you've got to be smart. [In the Major Leagues] when you make a mistake, they hit it," Lester said. "You've got to slow the game down. Every pitch you're analyzing. It's more mentally challenging, but it's still baseball."

Winners of five straight, the Red Sox are 7-1 against the National League this year while Washington is 4-4 in Interleague Play.

Pitching matchup
BOS: LHP Jon Lester (1-0, 3.48 ERA)
Lester is coming off his first Major League win, a solid six-inning performance against the Braves. This is the rookie left-hander's third start and second at Fenway. Lester struck out five batters in his last start while walking three. He appears to be adapting to the Major League strike zone, as his control hasn't been quite as sharp as it was in the Minor Leagues.

WAS: RHP Shawn Hill (1-1, 2.42 ERA)
Hill was able to pitch himself in and out of traffic in his last start against New York at RFK. The Yankees posted single runs in the second and third innings and loaded the bases in the fourth with no outs. Hill escaped the fourth with a strikeout of Johnny Damon and by starting a 1-6-3 double play. Hill lasted six innings, with a no-decision for his efforts.

Player to watch
After 18 straight at-bats without a hit, left fielder Manny Ramirez has batted .375 (3-for-8) with two home runs.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WEEI 850 AM, WROL 950 AM (Español)

Up next
• Friday: Red Sox (RHP Josh Beckett, 8-3, 5.09) vs. Phillies (RHP Ryan Madson, 7-4, 5.79), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Red Sox (RHP Curt Schilling, 9-2, 3.55) vs. Phillies (RHP Brett Myers, 5-3, 3.77), 1:20 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Red Sox (RHP Tim Wakefield, 5-8, 3.82 ) vs. Phillies (RHP Cory Lidle, 4-6, 5.00), 2:05 p.m. ET

Howard Kussoy is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.