Red Sox top Toronto as Lester posts win
BOSTON — A bounce-back performance from Jon Lester and one big inning was all the Red Sox needed to take care of the Toronto Blue Jays Thursday night.
But it might have come at a cost.
Lester, pitching his best game since May 15, tossed seven-plus strong innings as first-place Boston held off the Blue Jays 7-4 in the opener of a four-game weekend series. But Lester was forced to leave the game in the eighth inning after jamming his right hip. Boston officials said after the game the injury does not appear to be serious.
Lester's status is important because Clay Buchholz, the other half of the Red Sox' one-two punch at the top of the rotation, is already on the disabled list.
Dustin Pedroia capped a seven-run second inning with a two-run homer and that was all for the Boston offense, which went scoreless in 6 1/3 innings against the Toronto bullpen.
Lester, who started the season by going 6-0 in his first nine starts, won his second straight to go to 8-4, pitched well in this one. He gave up five runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings at Detroit last weekend and came into Thursday night's game 1-4 with a 7.30 ERA in his last seven starts.
But he beat the Blue Jays, winners of 15 of their last 19, for the third time this season. Lester, who pitched a one-hit shutout against Toronto on May 10, took a no-hitter into the fifth inning Thursday but gave up three hits and two runs with a double by Maicer Izturis accounting for the Blue Jays scores.
Lester was charged with four runs in seven-plus frames but two of his inherited runners scored in the eighth.
Junichi Tazawa finished the eighth and new closer Koji Uehara picked up his second save in as many nights by working his second perfect ninth inning in a row.
Chien-Ming Wang (1-1) lasted only into the second inning for the Blue Jays as the first seven Red Sox reached base in the inning.
The loss dropped the last-place Blue Jays 7 and 1/2 games behind Boston in the crowded American League East.
Wang, who came in with 16 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run, worked a typical Wang inning -- three groundouts in the first inning. He should have called it a night right there.
David Ortiz led off the second with a walk and Mike Carp followed with another walk. Daniel Nava singled off the left-field wall for the first run and Jarrod Saltalamacchia then singled in the second. Right fielder Jose Bautista then played Stephen Drew's drive into a double making the score, 3-0.
Jose Iglesias followed with his 15th infield hit of the season to put the Red Sox up 4-0.
Jacoby Ellsbury singled in another run before Pedroia deposited his first homer in 111 at-bats into the first row of the Green Monster seats in left field.
Lester issued walks in the first and fourth innings, but Edwin Encarnacion grounded into double plays after both.
Earlier in the fourth inning, Drew charged Jose Reyes' shattered-bat grounder and threw Reyes out.
The Jays broke through in the fifth when, with one out, Melky Cabrera broke up the no-hitter with a clean single. One out later, Rajai Davis dropped a single into right field. Izturis, who had the only hit off Lester in the one-hitter pitched by the lefty May 10, then doubled to left-center and the score was 7-2.
NOTES: An MRI of Buchholz's pitching shoulder showed bursitis, an inflammation of the bursa sac. No word on how long Buchholz, who last pitched June 8 and has worked twice since May 22, will be out. ... Red Sox 1B Mike Napoli, who has one extra base hit since June 1, got the night off, with Mike Carp getting the start. ... Toronto RHP Josh Johnson goes for his second American League win when he faces Boston rookie Allen Webster in Game 2 of the series Friday night. The weather is threatening for the entire weekend. A mist fell through the game Thursday night.