Sox, A's Game 2 in Japan

After making a smooth transition from cancer patient to winning pitcher in the clinching game of the World Series, Jon Lester isn't likely to be fazed by starting a game on the other side of the world.

Lester will look to earn the Boston Red Sox a two-game sweep in Tokyo when he takes the mound Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics and Rich Harden.

Oddsmakers from have made Boston -115 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 9.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 83% of bets for this game have been placed on Boston -115 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

After being diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma in September 2006, Lester worked his way back to the big leagues in July last season, finishing 4-0 with a 4.57 ERA.

He only made one start in the playoffs, but earned the win in Game 4 of Boston's World Series sweep of Colorado after pitching 5 2-3 shutout innings.

Now, Boston's second-round draft pick from 2002 will start the season in the majors for the first time in his career. Injuries to Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling gave Lester the opportunity to start a game in Japan, and will also give the fully healthy 24-year-old increased responsibility in the early season.

"It's been a while since I had a normal spring training," Lester told the Red Sox's official Web site. "Two years ago, I was on a lot of pitch counts, and all that. And last year was obviously not normal. So, as far as I remember, this is normal."

Lester has made two starts in his career against Oakland, coming away with a pair of no-decisions while compiling a 4.82 ERA. The A's scored five runs - four earned - in just 4 1-3 innings against him in his last start of the 2007 regular season on Sept. 26.

Harden is also hoping for a comeback season after starting just 13 games the last two years due to various arm injuries. He went 1-2 with a 2.45 ERA last season, but hasn't made more than 19 starts in a year since 2004.

"I feel great," Harden told the A's official Web site, "especially now that my body's adjusted to the time change. It definitely took a few days."

The Red Sox haven't faced Harden since 2004, but he's 0-1 with a 17.61 ERA in two career starts against them. Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz are a combined 6-for-7 with three walks, four home runs and eight RBIs in their careers against Harden.

Ramirez keyed Boston's 6-5, 10-inning win in Tuesday's opener, as Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka's homecoming turned into a battle between the teams' bullpens. Japanese reliever Hideki Okajima earned the win for Boston.

The Red Sox tied the game in the ninth when rookie Brandon Moss hit his first major league home run off A's closer Huston Street, and Ramirez put the Red Sox ahead with his second two-run double of the game in the 10th after Ortiz was intentionally walked.

"They're both great hitters and you have to pick one or the other," A's manager Bob Geren said.

Moss, who also had an RBI single, found out he was starting just before game time, as J.D. Drew sat out with a sore back.

It's unclear who will start Wednesday's game, which is set for 6:05 a.m. EDT. Afterward, the teams will head back to the United States to play exhibition games before resuming their series on April 1 in Oakland.

The A's started 0-2 last season for the first time since 1998, while Boston hasn't won its first two since 1999.

by: Dave Michaels - – Email Us

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