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Lester endures another rough outing

Lester endures another rough outing

OAKLAND -- The outing was strikingly similar to his first one, and for Jon Lester, this was not an encouraging development.

The Red Sox's left-hander has taken the mound twice in 2009, and been knocked around on both occasions. The latest was Monday night's 8-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics, when Lester was tagged for 10 hits and six runs over six innings.

Lester, who went 16-6 in a breakthrough 2008, has started this season 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA. The Red Sox, meanwhile, are 2-5, their worst start since 1996.

"You [do everything] for four days to prepare for a start and you go out to execute pitches and you feel like you're executing those pitches and not getting the results that you want," Lester said. "Yeah, it's frustrating. I don't know what to tell you about the outing. I didn't beat myself. I didn't walk anybody."

The one positive Lester can take from Monday's outing is that nearly all of the damage came in Oakland's five-run second inning.

"He ended up working his way through it," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "He just had the one big inning. I think they have a pretty good hitting lineup. We have to be able to continue to take steps and continue to execute pitches."

Though it was a distant memory by the end of the night, the Red Sox actually jumped out first, with Kevin Youkilis unloading for a solo homer to left. It was the second homer for Youkilis in as many days.

After that, there wasn't much in the way of highlights for the slumping Boston bats.

A's lefty Dallas Braden turned in a strong performance, scattering six hits and two runs over six innings, walking one and striking out three.

"Braden threw a lot of good offspeed pitches," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He spotted his fastball, threw his changeup when he needed to, kept us off-balance, jammed us at times with his fastball because he changed speeds. He pitched a very good game."

Lester wishes he could say the same, but Oakland ruined his chances of that in a hurry, busting out in that second inning.

It started with Jack Cust belting a towering solo shot to center. Orlando Cabrera added an RBI single that blooped into right and Jason Giambi followed with a two-run double to left out of the reach of a diving Jason Bay. Matt Holliday ripped an RBI single to right, capping the damage. Lester threw 35 pitches in the inning, but did a nice job settling into a groove for the remainder of his outing.

Varitek continues to express supreme confidence in Lester and thinks there's very little that separates the lefty form getting back to where he needs to be.

"I think his stuff is there," Varitek said. "One or two balls going at somebody. Get him locked in, get him a lead, get him a chance to work his way through. They had some balls fall at the right time. Jonny is right there. We're going to rely a lot on Jonny throughout the whole year."

Nomar Garciaparra -- playing his first career game against the Red Sox -- did tack on a shot to left in the fifth to make it 6-1 Oakland.

"I actually thought he threw a real good pitch to Nomar, a cutter in, that Nomar got to," said Francona.

Garciaparra, once an icon in Boston, found it a little strange to dig in to the box and see Varitek, his teammate at both Georgia Tech and the Red Sox, crouching behind him.

"I think the last time I did that was in an intrasquad game in college," Garciaparra said.

If ever there was a chance for the Red Sox to get back in the game, it came in the top of the sixth inning, when Braden finally got into a jam. Rocco Baldelli walked with one out and Dustin Pedroia followed with an infield hit, setting up first and second for David Ortiz. The slugger laced an RBI single to center, bringing Boston's hottest hitter to the plate in Youkilis. This time, however, Youkilis couldn't get the job done, striking out. J.D. Drew flied to center and the threat was over.

"We'll just keep battling," said Francona. "Keep fighting."

The Red Sox came into the year viewed as one of the best teams in the game. Ortiz isn't about to change his mind about that just a few games in.

"We're good," Ortiz said. "We're going to be fine. We're going to have guys picking it up and doing their thing like they normally do."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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