ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. - Jon Lester rebounded from the worst outing of his career to help Boston tighten the American League wild-card race.
The former Bellarmine Prep star from Puyallup allowed two hits over seven innings, and Victor Martinez homered twice off All-Star David Price, pacing a 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay that also enabled the Red Sox to nudge closer to the Rays and New York Yankees in the AL East standings.
“A big win for us. We just battled, and that’s what we’ve been doing all season long,” Lester said after Boston cut its deficit in the wild-card race – as well as the division chase – to 41/2 games. “If we continue to do that, then that will put us in a good position, hopefully, at the end of the year.”
With New York losing 9-4 to the Chicago White Sox, the Rays remained tied with the defending World Series champions for first place. This is as close as the Red Sox have been to the top since July 7, when they also trailed by 41/2 games.
“We are the three teams that are fighting for first place and the wild card,” Boston’s David Ortiz said. “Every game is important from now on.”
Lester (14-8) won for the third time in four starts. The All-Star left-hander walked five and uncorked three wild pitches, but he also struck out 10 while limiting the Rays to two hits and an unearned run.
He allowed nine runs in two innings of a 16-2 loss to Toronto at Fenway Park last Friday.
Martinez hit two-out solo homers off Price (15-6) in the first and seventh. Ortiz doubled and scored on Jed Lowrie’s two-out single to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead in the fourth.
“With Price, we’ll take any runs we can get any time we can,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “He throws a lot of strikes, he’s got velocity, he’s got angle on his fastball. That’s why he’s one of the best in the game.”