This was a big start for Jon Lester. Not only was first place in the AL East at stake, but Lester had been given an extra two days' rest after the All-Star break and hasn't been pitching well by his standards of late. The left-hander came through with his best start in roughly two months to lead the Red Sox over the Rays 6-2 Tuesday night at Fenway Park.
Lester went 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, while striking out eight (tied a season-high) and surrendered no walks. The two blemishes were lead-off home runs, as Wil Myers took him deep in the second and Evan Longoria in the sixth. Lester seemed to shy away from his cutter as his put-away pitch, and went more to his curveball. The bullpen was equally impressive as Matt Thornton (one batter), Junichi Tazawa (1 1/3 innings) and Koji Uehara (1 inning) pitched very well in relief of Lester.
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"Just the way Jon came out tonight, he was strong and it seemed like the added rest did him some good," manager John Farrell said. "A lot of strikes. Power to his fastball in the full six-plus innings of work tonight. Getting to the 95-pitch mark, that would have been the third time he would have grinded through a man in scoring position situation."
The Red Sox got their first run in the third on an RBI single from Mike Carp to score Mike Napoli, then played small-ball to get their second and third runs. In the third, with Dustin Pedroia on first and Shane Victorino on third, the Sox executed a double-steal to score Victorino. They got their third run on a sacrifice fly from Pedroia in the fifth to score Daniel Nava. David Ortiz, Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamachhia all had two hits in the win. The Sox added three insurance runs in the eighth, all coming with two outs. First a single from Stephen Drew, followed by a two-run single from Jose Iglesias to deep short/shallow left field.
Game 3 of the four-game set will be tomorrow night (7:10, NESN, ESPN) where Felix Doubront will take on David Price.
What they'll be saying: This was a big win for both the team and personally Lester, as he pitched better than he has in any game in almost two months. He's made adjustments to his pitch selection, particularly to his cutter, as teams were catching on to the pitch. He's now relying more on his curveball and changeup. It was Lester's ninth win of the season and 10th quality start.
The bullpen was outstanding, as the three relievers retired the eight batters they faced, striking out six of them.