Though it didn't start out in promising fashion, the Boston bats did just enough in the late innings to back what turned out to be a truly dominating performance from Lester, who, once again, made a convincing case for the title of "staff ace."
Pitching both under the weather (upset stomach) and at the mercy of it (102-degrees at game-time), Lester managed to work his way around four hits and an error through the first four innings while keeping Texas scoreless. Even more impressive, he did so while allowing the leadoff batter of the first four frames to reach base.
An throwing error by third baseman Adrian Beltre to begin the bottom of the first -- after the Sox were retired in order in the top half -- allowed Elvis Andrus to reach base in front of one of the more daunting 2-3-4 hitters in the American League. However, in a way indicative of his night overall, Jon Lester set down Young, Hamilton and Guerrero to eliminate any potential threat early on.
The Red Sox offense garnered their own threat the following frame when David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre led off the second with back-to-back singles. However, after a Ryan Kalish walk loaded the bases with just one out, Bill Hall took a called third strike before Eric Patterson flew out to strand all three runners, keeping the game scoreless.
Through innings 2-4, Lester scattered four hits, all singles, thanks in large part to a successful pick-off attempt of Andres Blanco and double-play ball off the bat of Michael Young -- both coming in the third inning -- as the Sox's starter matched zeros with the Rangers' Colby Lewis heading into the fifth.
Fortunately for Boston, the fifth is when they finally broke through offensively.
Kalish singled to open the frame in front of Hall and Patterson, who left the bases loaded earlier in the game. They lived up to their billing as the two again notched a strikeout and fly-out, only this time in reverse order, for the inning's first two outs. After Scutaro added a rare hit from the leadoff spot, advancing Kalish to third and setting up a two-out scoring chance, J.D. Drew made good on the opportunity by roping an RBI-single to right field, affording the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.
From there, until the ninth, Jon Lester made sure that his team's lack of offense on this particular night would be a moot point. Allowing just one more base-hit -- a one-out triple in the seventh by Nelson Cruz -- Lester finished off his eight innings of shutout work.
Thankfully, the offense, mindful of what typically happens when the bullpen enters the game with a small lead in the late innings recently, provided a couple insurance runs in their half of the ninth following Lester's exit. Even the
dynamic 'traumatic duo' of Hall and Patterson chipped in with a pair of singles; they must have noticed Scott Atchison warming for Boston in preparation for Texas' final at-bats.
A depleted and miserable Sox bullpen trotted Atchison out to put the stamp on the 3-0 victory.
After retiring Michael Young for the 25th out of the game, Atchison decided to make things a tad more tense by serving up Josh Hamilton's 26th home run of the season to cut the lead to 3-1. And because it's no fun when the tying run is on deck as opposed to at the plate, Scotty allowed Guerrero to single bringing up the tying run, pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland with only one gone.
The beneficiary of Atchison's theatrics was reliever Felix Doubront, who entered the game to face Moreland.
However, Texas, in an almost insulting manner, gave Vlad the green light to take second base and eliminate the possibility of a game-ending double play. Victor Martinez took advantage of the faulty decision making, throwing out Guerrero before Doubront spun a 1-2 curveball in to Moreland who watched it drop in for strike three and, finally, the game's final out.
The win helped Boston avoid any further distance between themselves and the division's two frontrunners, New York and Tampa Bay, who both won Saturday.
-Jon Lester earned a well-deserved win. He is now 13-7 and has lowered his ERA down to 2.80.
-Despite hammering out double-digit hits again (10), the Red Sox lineup collectively left 21 runners on base.
-Felix Doubront earned his first career save.
-Victor Martinez (0-4, BB) was the only Boston batter without a base-hit. However, just Kalish (2-3, BB) and Hall (2-4) collected multiple hits.
Up next: Daisuke Matsuzaka (8-3, 4.09) and the Red Sox attempt to earn a statement-making series win of sorts as the Rangers counter with C.J. Wilson (10-5, 3.30) in a 3:05 PM ET get away day game at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.